Make proving and improving work for you

Take ownership – and responsibility – for proving and improving

While an organisation must take into account the opinions and needs of its stakeholders, too often a single group of stakeholders – funders or large contract holders – determine what gets measured, and therefore what gets valued. This section helps you to determine your organisation’s priorities and outlines how you make an informed decision about how you go about ‘proving and improving’.

Determine what your organisation needs most

Knowing what your organisation wants or needs most is probably the most important element in choosing an approach to ‘proving and/or improving’.


If you determine that it’s important to work on quality, improvement, or excellence, understand for yourself or within your organisation what that means.

The organisation itself – and its stakeholders — can decide what ‘quality’ looks like and set standards for the organisation to uphold. An external body or organisation may set standards for the quality of an organisation’s products or how an organisation does things (process) or how the organisation makes or provides things (products or services). An umbrella or membership organisation representing a whole ‘sector’ or group of similar organisations can set standards for that group of organisations.

Make some decisions about quality:

  • Which of these ways of seeing quality is most important for your organisation right now?
  • Is there a particular area that needs improvement, such as human resources, financial management, or governance?
  • Is there the drive and interest in undertaking a holistic process of looking at all of the organisation’s internal processes?
  • Is it important to your stakeholders that you have an externally validated mark of quality?


You probably keep track of outputs, such as numbers of people served or numbers of qualifications attained. This only begins to tell the story. It’s essential to know more in order to check that your activities results are having the effects you intend, and are helping to achieve your organisation’s mission.

The decisions to make are:

  • What social, environmental or economic results from our activities, if we were not accomplishing them, would prevent us from getting to our organisation’s goal – its mission?
  • Therefore, what are the most important things we need to know about?
  • Do we already demonstrate that these things are really happening, or measure to what extent they are happening? Do we need to start now?
  • Are there other things that are essential for us to know about – such as the unexpected positive and negative effects of our activities or the way we operate our organisation?

Use ‘windows of opportunity’ to your advantage

There are points in your organisation’s lifecycle where using proving and improving initiatives can be particularly useful: times of change. Using a tool or framework can provide structure or solidify goals when the organisation is going through changes.

While these points provide opportunities, it is possible to take up a proving or improving process at other times. Whether your organisation is at a ‘window of opportunity’ or there is simply a strong desire to ‘prove’ or ‘improve’ it is important that there is the commitment and energy within the organisation to move forward the process and see it through.

Focus on what you have the resources to take on

Quality systems, impact measurement, and other ways of proving and improving will use  resources in the following areas:

  • Leadership. Someone must take responsibility for leading the initiative within the organisation.
  • Time to involve stakeholders. In any proving or improving process you are likely to want to consult your stakeholders in some way.
  • Cost of materials, support, or courses. These can be considerable for some of the more complex or holistic approaches.

Choose your tool or approach from the full range of options

There are many resources that can help plan, monitor and evaluate outcomes and impacts. Each tool meets a need or a range of needs.

Go to Tools or more information.

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New Economics Foundation

NEF aims to create a new economy that works for people and within environmental limits. We are guided by three missions:

A new social settlement
To ensure people are paid well, have more time off to spend with their families, and have access to the things we all need for a decent life.

A Green New Deal
A plan for government-led investment to reduce the carbon we emit and boost nature, while creating a new generation of jobs.

The democratic economy
To devolve state power and transform ownership of the economy to give everyone an equal stake in the places where we live and work.

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