DMSS Research undertakes research, evaluation,
policy analysis and training in the social care sector

Creating Change by Influence - the lessons from the Lloyds Foundation's Transform programme

DMSS do a lot of work with small and medium sized voluntary sector projects and so we're well aware of how much they have to teach much larger organisations, statutory services and policy makers about what people need and how to support people well. Although they have plenty to say, such projects rarely have the resources to get their voices heard. Their focus is supporting and empowering the people who need them most and they don't have much time to spare for influencing what others do. In recognition of this Lloyds Bank Foundation established the Transform grants programme with the aim of strengthening policy influencing, infrastructure and innovation in that bit of the voluntary sector concerned with domestic and sexual abuse. It invested £1.6m to fund 16 projects which all aimed to create social change by influencing others - individuals, services and systems - to do things differently.

It was a rare opportunity for these small organisations and one they embraced with enthusiasm. Recognising that the 'business of influencing' was new to many organisations, the Foundation recruited us as a 'learning and evaluation partner' to help projects work out exactly what change they wanted see, how best to promote it and how to assess and learn from their successes and failures along the way.

Transform brought together a group of projects with a common interest in tackling violence and abuse and supported them to become agents of change. It encouraged the sharing of learning between projects and sought to build influencing capacity for the future. And it worked. There was an impressive level of success in delivering planned activities across the programme and some convincing evidence that several projects were having an influence on their key audiences. What's more, the feedback from projects strongly suggests that the Transform programme's approach – combining the provision of funding with support for learning and networking and set within a theory of change planning framework - was a successful formula.

It is common for projects in this sector, and in these beleaguered times, to be largely focused on 'doing' and 'keeping going'. Having a programme specially focused on influence rather than service delivery was enabling (even liberating) for many projects. It gave them the space and capacity to address issues in different ways and do things that normally get squeezed out because of the pressures of the 'day job.' It took projects a little outside their comfort zone and perhaps this made them more open to listening to some different voices and ideas and doing some things differently; for example, it helped several projects to move their user participation on to another level.

You can read full and summary versions of our evaluation report here:

The full report is available here

The summary is available here

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