Yes Futures - a Big Venture Challenge case study

Posted on November 06, 2017

James Rowntree

Yes Futures is a multi-award winning education charity, working towards a future where all young people lead fulfilling lives. Created by Sarah Wallbank, a former teacher who is passionate about the importance of soft skills in making a difference in people’s lives, Yes Futures specialises in extra-curricular personal development programmes, improving young people's confidence, resilience and access to successful futures.

Big Venture Challenge

From 2013-2016, UnLtd.'s Big Venture Challenge (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

Impact has always been at the core of what Yes Futures does. The organisation’s Talent Toolbox – which is an innovative impact measurement tool that enables young people to develop their soft skills and track their progress – has won best-practice awards.

Yes Futures wanted to use their work with TSIP to help them build on this evaluation success. The team has plans for substantial growth over the next three years and is committed to ensuring that impact remains at the heart of their organisation’s growth. 

Working with TSIP

In the first of their meetings with a TSIP consultant, Yes Futures outlined what they wanted to achieve through evaluation in the years ahead. The team began to address the different elements of this challenge, through the series of group workshops TSIP ran – which covered the fundamentals of effective impact measurement – and dedicated bespoke support.

“I found both the workshops and one-to-one support incredibly useful. During the workshops, we could cover evaluation concepts and tools in a broad strokes way, then follow up with our TSIP contact to get answers to any specific questions that we had.”

Sarah Wallbank, Founder and CEO, Yes Futures

In collaboration with TSIP, Yes Futures reviewed and strengthened their evaluation approach step-by-step.

“During the programme, we updated our Theory of Change to produce a clearer, more compelling and useful document. We also worked to develop our evaluation plan and toolkit to ensure it measured the outcomes set out in our Theory of Change.”

Sarah Wallbank, Founder and CEO, Yes Futures

Yes Futures also used TSIP’s expertise to independently validate their evaluation approach against industry best-practice to ensure they were as robust as possible. Doing this work helped to build the team’s confidence in using these types of tools, so much so that they have already created a Theory of Change for their new pilot programme.

But it also made them revisit some of the assumptions they’d had at the beginning of the programme.  

“I went into this process thinking I would be able to produce a perfect Theory of Change, and quickly tick it off my list. What I learnt is that our Theory of Change document can never really be ‘perfect’ or completed, because we will continue to learn, develop and progress the work that we do.”

Sarah Wallbank, Founder and CEO, Yes Futures

Looking Forward

Yes Futures are now using the outputs from their work with TSIP to help drive the organisation’s strategic direction and fulfill their growth ambitions.

This includes ensuring that their evaluation planning and tools enable them to streamline their data collection processes and reinforce the extent and scope of their impact. Yes Futures has also developed their Talent Toolbox to better measure their four key outcomes: confidence, resilience, communication and self-awareness. 

Together, they are using what they learnt to build the foundations for their organisation’s future.

“As a result of this experience, we’re able to be even more confident about the accuracy and validity of our impact data and ensure we’re at the forefront of driving standards as we grow and plan for the future.”

Sarah Wallbank, Founder and CEO, Yes Futures

To find out more, please visit www.yesfutures.org