Inspiring Inclusion - The Fortoa Blog by Jon Yon

Creating Social and Economic Impact – When Numbers Don’t Add Up!

Creating Social and Economic Impact – When Numbers Don’t Add Up!

We all know that in order to find out if things are really working, we have to measure, monitor and, of course, set targets. But how does this all work when we’re trying to deliver services for disadvantaged groups or communities?

Many organizations believe that just because you’re socially-driven, nothing needs to change (i.e. you just treat it like a business and ‘hit those targets’). I, on the other hand, believe that things are very different. Even though I’m a strong believer in the principal that social organizations should treat their organizations professionally (and in many cases, be much more businesslike) and that they should, if possible, aim to become financially sustainable, I don’t believe that the people that we serve need to suffer or be served poorly because of this.

The core question that needs to be asked is: Are you trying to serve or support a real person or are you trying to hit a ‘number’? And, what’s most important to you – People or Targets?

Unfortunately, oh so often, organizations forget that they are ultimately there to serve the needs of real people. I fully understand that all organizations need to generate funds to maintain their operations but I think that if they are truly going to serve the best interests of their clients, sooner of later they must be willing to stand up and fight for the rights of those that they’re trying to serve.

In my experience, it’s very common for funders (and I’m not just talking about Government and Public Sector Organizations here) to come up with a budget for a program and then somewhat miraculously come up with a ‘target number’ of people that need to be supported by that budget. All of this is done, of course, with very little input from the ‘people on the ground’, who’ll actually be delivering the program. The trouble is that often, not only are these ‘phantom numbers’ totally unrealistic but frequently these targets can only be reached if the quality of the support given to end-users is significantly reduced.

This numbers-driven (rather than impact-driven) mentality, frequently gets passed down the ‘delivery pipeline’  and, rather predictably, leads to every organization that’s involved in the management and delivery of the project, prioritizing numbers and targets over the needs of the real people that they’re there to serve.

I have seen, first-hand, organizations move all of their highly effective face-to-face client support to a totally infective phone based ‘light-touch’ system, just so that they could achieve more ‘numbers’. I’ve seen essential local client support services replaced by distant ‘bulk services’ that clients hated and I’ve seen large-scale national programs replaced with untested, weak, trial programs, which on paper look good but in reality have no chance of working.

In conclusion, I’d say “Don’t sell out!” If you think that targets are too high for good quality service delivery, push back at those who have set them. If you have the choice, deliver bigger impact rather than bigger numbers. And if you’re ever in doubt about hitting a target or serving your customer, remember that People Should Always Come First!

Jon Yon – Fortoa Founder and CEO





Posted in: Community Regeneration

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Community Regeneration: Location, Location, Location

Community Regeneration: Location, Location, Location

One of the simple, yet frequently overlooked cornerstones of community regeneration is the ‘location’ of events and service delivery.  To those who’ve worked ‘on the ground’ it may seem very obvious but I’m amazed at how many organizations (especially large corporates) forget or may not have even considered that ‘location’ is an extremely important factor in community regeneration.

Let me explain a little more exactly what I mean by ‘location’.

Picture this scenario:  You live in a deprived community, you’re unemployed or make a very low income, you have relatively low levels of confidence, have no savings or spare cash, you have two young kids and you’re not used to networking or engaging with support organizations.

If you were invited, by a well-meaning organization/corporation, to attend an event to help you start a business, which was to be  held in a new plush, gleaming building in a large corporate complex (with security at the door of course), people in suits, lots of networking and ‘nibbles’ and was promoted by glossy corporate brochures with the ‘regular/standard’ corporate suited library pictures to boot.

Would you go? Probably not!

Why not? Because, that environment would feel alien, scary and extremely intimidating. You’d probably say to yourself, pretty quickly, that it’s not ‘really for me!’ and come up with an excuse so that you wouldn’t even have to give the event a second thought.

If, on the other hand, the same event was held within your community (maybe in a local hall, school or another similar small venue) and was promoted in a way and language that you could relate to, was possibly hosted by a local organization that you’d heard of and featured other local community residents (i.e. people like you), do you think that there is a greater chance of you attending? Yes, of course there is.

So, remember that bigger and flashier is not always better and may not actually be in the best interest of the people you are trying to serve.

And when you’re thinking about your location, remember that ‘distance’ is also an important factor. In my experience, people frequently won’t travel to get help and assistance (even if it’s free). Frequently, financial constraints and child-care issues play a part in this but often it is just that people don’t feel comfortable going for support outside of their community.

In the above scenarios, I am only talking about a single stand alone event but of course, the same principles apply ten-fold for ongoing community regeneration services. Therefore, please don’t alienate the people you are trying to support before they even reach your front door.

In summary, always ask yourself, how will your audience feel if you run an event or deliver your services at ‘X’ location. Are the individuals your ‘really trying to serve’ likely to come or will you just reach those who didn’t really need your help in the first place.

Finally, always try to put yourself in the shoes of the people that you’re trying to serve. See things as they would see things and just remember that what your management thinks may be the perfect location, may in fact be the worst possible location for those most in need.

Jon Yon  – Fortoa Founder and CEO


Posted in: Community Regeneration

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