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Does the National Performance Framework mean anything to the third sector?

Steven Marwick, Director of Evaluation Support Scotland (ESS), reflects on an event ESS ran with the Scottish Government earlier in June.

Does the National Performance Framework mean anything to the third sector?

That’s the question a group of third sector organisations were answering at an event in June 2019. If the answer had been “no”, it would have been an embarrassingly short event!

But fortunately we had a productive discussion about the many ways the National Performance Framework (NPF) is relevant to the third sector. We also explored how to overcome barriers to third sector engagement with the NPF.

The event was led by Evaluation Support Scotland (ESS) and the Scottish Government National Performance Unit and you can read the event report on the ESS website.

One message from the event is that the third sector likes the NPF because it speaks our language. Many of us don’t have time for fancy words but values are important. The NPF resonates with what matters to us and to the communities we serve.

Some of us are already using the NPF to shape our services and our dialogue with public sector colleagues and to show the important contribution of our sector. But as Anna Fowlie, Chief Executive of SCVO, wisely points out in her own blog post for Carnegie Trust UK, there is some way to go to make the NPF vision a reality. What’s measured is still very different from what matters.

At our June event my third sector colleagues had some smart ideas about how our sector can help make the NPF a reality:

Show and tell. One way to show the relevance of the NPF is to…erm…show its relevance. Specifically with case studies and examples of the NPF in action. We’re up for collecting and sharing these.

More stories, fewer stats. If the “performance” bit of the NPF is only measured by national statistics we miss tonnes of quality evidence about what works in achieving positive outcomes. Yes, I’m afraid I’m talking about replacing some of our tidy numbers with messy stories and experiences. But don’t be scared! The third sector can contribute those stories and make sense of them.

Own it. LOIPs, GIRFEC, LDPs, TLC…one of those might not be a real framework, but I can’t be sure. My point is that the NPF is at risk of being drowned in the alphabet soup of other frameworks. We think it would be helpful if all of us involved in public services (whatever our sector) start with the NPF and, if other frameworks are also needed, link them to the NPF to join things up.

Because what really matters is not measurement but learning. So let’s use the NPF to help us learn. Only then can we work together to achieve positive outcomes for the people and communities of Scotland

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