School Space - a Big Venture Challenge case study

Posted on October 31, 2017

James Rowntree

School Space is a social enterprise that helps schools to generate extra funds by hiring out their facilities to the local community. School Space takes the hassle out of lettings for schools, providing income and freeing up resources for education, and helps to offer spaces with ethical impact to the community.

Jemma Phibbs and James Lloyd created School Space, following their experiences on a Head Boy and Girl team working to encourage their school to be entrepreneurial with their assets. After six years in business, Jemma and James applied to UnLtd’s Big Venture Challenge (BVC) – accelerator programme – to take their organisation to the next stage in its development.

Big Venture Challenge

From 2013-2016, BVC supported 120 social ventures – with business support, useful network connections and match funding – to help them raise investment and deliver social impact at scale.

Within the programme, The Social Innovation Partnership (TSIP) worked with BVC participants to build and strengthen their organisation’s evaluation approach, in order to maintain and increase their impact.

Our support comprised three main phases: firstly, assessing each venture’s current evidence of impact and evaluation capability, and identifying recommendations for improvements; secondly, helping ventures to develop their monitoring and evaluation capacity and generate an evaluation plan; and, thirdly, to advise ventures on how to implement and sustain their monitoring and evaluation practices long term.

The evaluation challenge

During the programme, the School Space team attended a series of evaluation workshops led by TSIP, and received dedicated support from a TSIP consultant.

School Space knew that their business model was working and that the basic building blocks of their evaluation process were in place. The team used two main metrics of impact – the number of hours of bookings they secured and the number of community users of the schools they supported.

Their initial focus, therefore, was to test and confirm with TSIP that they were measuring the right things and, based on this, develop a powerful narrative about their impact.

Working with TSIP

Together with TSIP, School Space reviewed their existing Theory of Change to make sure it was linked to clear outcomes. 

“By looking again at our Theory of Change, we clarified our understanding of what we do and what we want to achieve as an organisation. Crucially, it’s helped us to improve our communication with each other, our investors and stakeholders.”

Jemma Phibbs, Co-founder, School Space

School Space then drew on their revised Theory of Change to systematically assess the evaluation tools they use, such as their user surveys, revisiting questions and eliminating bias. They wanted to ensure that they were measuring their impact in the most rigorous and effective way possible.

“We’d developed our evaluation approach, alongside the organisation, in a piecemeal way. Working with TSIP, we got the chance to confirm and codify what we know in order to build on it." 

Jemma Phibbs, Co-founder, School Space

Looking forward

The revised Theory of Change and Evaluation Matrix, School Space developed with TSIP, are already helping to shape and support School Space’s plans for the future.

“We use our Theory of Change to assess how realistic and appropriate our targets and ambitions for the future are, highlighting where the resources we have and need to recruit can best be directed.”

Jemma Phibbs, Co-founder, School Space

In addition, the team have found that their Theory of Change is a useful pitch document to use with potential investors. 

“It enables us to set out the aims and purpose of our business in a strong visual format. It helped us a great deal to secure social investment from an Equity Investor.”

Jemma Phibbs, Co-founder, School Space

Ultimately, this work will help School Space continue to maintain and increase their impact – ensuring they’re doing what they set out to do, help local schools and communities to prosper together.

“Looking forward, we’re going to continue to use it to monitor our impact with our target audiences, and develop clear outcomes from them. Doing what we can to strengthen and boost our offer.”

Jemma Phibbs, Co-founder, School Space