England & Wales Communities and society

Manage, monitor and evidence your community projects

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Photo: Markus Spiske / raumrot.com

Diane Farmer of the Football Foundation discusses Upshot: their new software package that allows them to track the outputs and outcomes of their grant funded projects.

Whether you’re a funder working with many organisations or a stand alone deliverer it’s easy to find yourself working with inconsistent information about your projects. You can’t compare “apples with apples” and that reduces your likelihood of being able to clearly evidence the work you’ve been doing, let alone shout from the rooftops about your success.

This was a real problem for the Football Foundation. We manage the grant allocation process for a range of different programmes and consequently face the same pressures as other funders and commissioners to provide evidence of the achievements of the funded projects.   We also had an issue with real-time information. We were often only made aware that a project has under-performed after it submitted a case-study at project completion.

The sheer volume of data which the Football Foundation were dealing with necessitated a move to a more robust technology based solution, but the market didn’t appear to offer exactly what The Foundation needed – a tool which would allow Funder and Project deliverers to share data in real time; so the decision was taken to develop a tool from scratch, but make it so open and flexible that other funders and their delivery partners would also be able to adopt it.

The Foundation trawled the market for a software development partner that shared its ethical approach and settled on a company based in Oxfordshire. Torchbox has worked on software for a range of not-for-profit organisations including Oxfam, and the cultural fit was easily recognisable.

The result was Upshot; a piece of software specifically designed to track the progress of grant funded projects, reducing the burden of reporting and making it easy to see at a glance how successful they are.

How it works

Upshot gives both funders and commissioners the opportunity to record programmes of work on an online system and link these to the providers who deliver them.  They can specify the outcomes and targets that should be achieved, which can then be tracked via an interactive dashboard, giving the funder instant access to information about how a project is progressing.

Delivery organisations can manage every aspect of a project online, setting up various activities and sessions which they may be delivering in a variety of locations.  They can hold extensive information about project participants and service users, and even work through smartphones to capture detailed registers.

Participant data can be overlaid onto maps, reports can be generated instantaneously, project participants can be surveyed using an inbuilt tool, and qualitative information about a project can be stored alongside system generated quantitative information.

Next steps

As we have found the tool so useful, we are now licensing it to other organisations who want to monitor their grant funded organisations.

Already a range of organisations are using Upshot, including Barclays Spaces for Sport, Brighton University, Oldham Community Leisure and The Cricket and Tennis Foundations.  Numerous other organisations including a wide range of large Councils are currently running pilots and really putting the system through its paces.

Although we have a strong affinity with sport, users from a variety of other backgrounds have embraced the flexibility of the system – because they can input their own structures and naming convention, delivery strategies and outcomes; they feel they really “own” the system, whether they’re a charitable trust, a governing body of sport, a council or a grass roots club.

Benefits of Upshot

Whilst each Upshot user is somewhat unique in their implementation of the software, they all cite similar benefits, not least of which is the system’s ease of use and the strong management aspects it brings to their organisation whether they are a commissioner, or funder managing a range of programmes or a small delivery organisation wishing to evidence their achievements.

Brighton University “We are really looking forward getting Upshot going, our demo site and the presentations showing the capability of it has drastically shaped our plans for the coming years. The potential to save time, measure and track progress instantly  will drastically improve the level of service we can offer our users. This will allow us to be more responsive to trends and seeing instantly what is and is not working. There are also great tools for feeding back the information to key stakeholders.”

Oldham Community Leisure “The Energize Project aims to deliver doorstep sports to young people aged 16 – 25 who live in some of the most deprived wards within the Borough of Oldham.  The participants receive training and mentoring and volunteer opportunities are made available to them. Activities will be delivered in a variety of locations including Colleges, Sport and leisure Centres, Community Centres and Urban and Country parks. Our aim is to increase participation on a variety of different levels, so we needed to be able to carefully mange the project and ultimately evidence our achievements – this is where Upshot came in.  Upshot is helping us to capture detailed information about the groups we’re reaching and whether we really are converting the previously inactive.”

To find out more about Upshot, visit the website (http://www.upshot.org.uk/) or email Diane Farmer (Partnership Manager of Upshot): diane.farmer@upshot.org.uk