• Simon Glenister, Noise Solution Ltd
News & Views
Impact capture…why bother?
Date posted: 04 June 2018
Sound Sense Board member, Simon Glenister, on why measuring shouldn't be an afterthought

I once spent a year with the school for social enterprise (SSE) working with other chief execs on what worked and didn’t work within our respective businesses. At the end of the course we were asked to sit in a circle and discuss what the impact of the course had been. Suffice to say there were tears and hugs and stories of redemption and transformation. I may at some point have got some dust in my eye, It was genuinely moving and inspiring. This was the last part of the last session, and then in time honored panicked remembrance the facilitator said “and if you could just fill out your feedback forms”. Everyone’s heart sank. If you say you don’t know that feeling then you’re lying. If they were lucky some people might have halfheartedly scribbled “yeah… it was ok”. But take a second to think about how powerful an edited video of that group reflection could have been for the organisation as opposed to what they captured? Can you spot the wasted opportunity to meaningfully capture impact in an inclusive way, and the potential to leverage it for further impact?

But here’s another question,why bother at all? What is so good about impact capture anyway? Doesn’t it just get in the way of all of our work with people? Isn’t it just something for bean counters or grant givers? And, does anyone ever looks at it anyway? These are things I hear people say and often, on one level, they are right. But, this is generally because either they haven’t thought through how best to capture what they do, or more commonly how and what they capture is dictated too them by people or organisations’ who have different agendas. They are not in control.

Those that know me are aware that I’m pretty obsessed with impact capture, it’s at the heart of everything Noise Solution does. It shouldn’t just be a record of what happened. It should enrich everyone’s experience of what you do, participants, families, everyone.  At Noise Solution we don’t just capture stuff we consciously recycle what we capture back those we work with, feeding the good stuff back to participants and their families (and commissioners) in an active loop, making it an agent in and of itself. It is the thing responsible for creating the very impacts we all desire for the individuals we work with. Confused? Bear with me.

How has Noise Solution done this? Well before I explain there is a caveat. What we’ve done works for us because we’ve thought about what is needed for our stakeholders. We work with youth in challenging circumstances, their families and the professional keyworkers often attached to those individuals. If you are working in early years or dementia care then your stakeholder needs may be well be very different.  To paraphrase Sound Sense Board member Sarah Fisher, this is “A way, not the way”. Caveat over. 

We’ve been using digital stories for the last eight years to capture what we do, sharing individuals experiences from one to one musicking sessions with their families and professional keyworkers. Why? Well, When you take a young person who might not engage with anyone, make them feel good at creating something they value (their music), capture that digitally through video and audio and photo’s and share it with those important to them, it has ripples and creates further impact for everybody, especially when the participant receives positive affirmation in the form of comments. A mum said to me recently “you are only ever as happy as your saddest child” If we can create a space where you capture and project a child being autonomous and competent (rather than solely focus on all the deficits that are occurring around them as occurs with most statutory agencies response to ‘hard to reach’ youth) then that changes how people interact with that young person. Which in turn changes how that young person feels about himself or herself. If those viewing those highlights comment on that digital story, the next time you see that young person and you show them their story and others reaction those impacts starts to be embedded. Negative labels start to be challenged, change occurs. There’s a lot of theoretical provenance for this that I won’t go into here, because this is about impact capture. I’d add that I use the term ‘hard to reach’ in parenthesis. They’re not, it’s more often services that are hard to reach.

On a general level though we all (universally I believe) have that one person in our distant past that said we were good at something – those are the moments that we remember, that we use as an emotional touchstone.. Noise Solution’s approach puts participants and their families inclusively in control of creating a wealth of wonderful story data that, coincidentally, provides all sorts of data that organisations need. But here’s the important bit. It’s done as an integral part of the process within sessions with and by participants and their families, not an ‘add on’ that workers resent. It doesn’t suck practitioner time, it is theprocess and it can be hugely powerful stuff.

What we have also done though is add number data (quantitative proof) to our rich story (qualitative) data. This twin approach is extremely helpful in convincing commissioners of our efficacy. This number data started as simple descriptive data around who turned up when, for how long. We started measuring impacts on well-being, using a nationally validated NHS well-being scale. We are using a scale that has been used at huge scale across the country – that gives us a national average well-being score against which we can compare our work. It’s a simple quick scale because we are always mindful not to impact in any way on the actual sessions. We can now categorically state that there is a huge (statistically significant) chance that we’ll not only increase the well-being of our participants (with all it’s inherent impacts on education, health and engagement) but that we will do so by taking participants up to around a national average well-being score validated by the NHS – that sort of thing makes commissioners sit up and take notice.

Over the last 8 years we’ve progressively built a rigorous, believable, evidence base, on our own terms, comprised of equal parts descriptive, qualitative and quantitative data.


It is an evidence base we’ve been able to leverage to great effect. To date it has allowed Noise Solution to raise over £100k in grant-funded research and development costs to invest in taking these idea’s further, to build an even better case, building an even stronger argument for what we are achieving. Its all been reinvested in honing this approach to utilizing the power of data. We have just launched Noise Solution’s own social media platform that is specifically designed to work with youth in challenging circumstances, their families and their keyworkers.

If you want to see a blog post that goes into more detail about what those impacts might be you can view one here


This new platform draws together those three elements of digital story telling, benchmarkable well-being data and descriptive data in one cloud based platform that all staff, participant, family and keyworkers can access and engage with. Every person who is referred adds in equal part to the evidence base we build, again as part of the process not as an additional afterthought, and of course every element is reportable. If we want to know which age group we are having the most impact in well-being on we can access that information at the touch of a button, if we want to know what the gender differences are amongst mental health referrals as opposed to education referrals it’s all at our finger tips. We can also dive into those data sets and look at individuals digital story – combining real human meaning to the numbers. In the near future we will be able to analyse both the textual and audio data extracted from participant’s video reflections from those stories. Equal amounts of qualitative and quantitative data is a research holy grail. One that we’ve placed participants and their families right at the heart of.

We moved to a position of impact management rather than capture – what does the data tell us, what can we learn. We’ve taken control of a narrative of what we achieve, so that organisations now choose to come to us to work with their because of what we demonstrate, rather than having to comply with others varying and competing evidence requirements. By taking control of impact capture we’ve made participants and families more engaged, made our life as an organisation a million times easier and created a compelling argument for commissioners. Most importantly, we’ve got much better outcomes for participants.

Take control of your or your organisations narrative – be better at it than commissioners expect you to be, because if you don’t capture it, it didn’t happen.

Some tips for thinking about how to capture what you do

  • First and foremost if you are not capturing anything just start
  • Keep it simple, define 4 or 5 things that you think are important and start capturing them
  • Try as hard as possible not to let what you capture impact on the work that happens with people
  • Only measure what’s useful
  • Avoid at all costs capturing what you do as an afterthought. Build it into what you do, ideally in partnership with the people you make music with
  • Start to take advantage of the funding that is out there to improve your impact capture
  • Use technology smartly, not for its own sake

These links are quite social enterprise/charity specific but here are a couple of funds that have helped Noise Solution focus and develop our impact capture approaches.