The aim of this section is to help you identify what resources might be needed for the development of a business case and what issues might need to be addressed in relation to these.
Implicit in decisions about which aspect of your empowerment work to focus on within the business case is the availability of adequate data. The type of data required will vary depending on the question: who are you trying to persuade of what?
Findings from an evaluation report on measuring public services at a neighbourhood level suggests that there are few technical obstacles to gathering and using neighbourhood-level service performance data. However, the authors note that the challenge is that the data is not published regularly as "service providers do not presently consider this to be of sufficient importance" (Tyler et al, 2008, p i). Local area agreement (LAA) processes put a new emphasis on data collection and data sharing and no doubt many local strategic partnerships (LSPs) are grappling with related issues. For example, Brighton and Hove have created a Data Management Group which works alongside the themed partnerships of the LSP.
Data that can generate both objective and subjective indicators is important. These will not necessarily appear consistent. For example, fear of crime can be reduced as a result of neighbourhood policing even though actual levels of crime don't change significantly (Tyler et al, 2008). What needs to be thought about in the development of your business case is how connections between empowerment work and both the objective and subjective indicators can be evidenced.
This requires a consideration of baselines in relation to outcomes:
"It is worth noting that when the Pathfinder programme began, virtually all of the focus on baselining was on outcomes, that is, neighbourhood conditions. Baselining outcome indicators is important but, with hindsight, equal emphasis should have been placed on baselining service delivery. This is a key lesson for other NR [Neighbourhood Renewal] programmes and LAAs [local area agreements] focusing on service delivery improvements. Gathering service data is not something that can be left for later evaluation." (Murray, R, 2009 SROI Forum on IDeA website, pg 9)
The issue of baselining service delivery, in order to provide evidence of change, could provide persuasive evidence in relation to community empowerment initiatives. Responsive alterations to services may well affect individuals' and communities' perceptions of their ability to affect service delivery.
The personnel implications of developing a business case depend upon the approach taken. If the key people your case needs to persuade are concerned with finances and you decide to go down the social return on investment (SROI) route (or similar), there are significant resource (and possibly training) issues which will need careful consideration.
The scoping phase of the Business Case tool will have assisted with thinking around desirable data and associated resource implications. Robust evidence can require significant amounts of time from a range of personnel within a range of organisations.
It is important to explore the relationship between a business case that is made to persuade key decision makers to invest time and resources, and evaluation designed to enable learning and reflection on how successful a project or strategy has been, what it has achieved, and how it might be improved. Evaluation evidence is a potential resource for a business case. More than that, it is the foundation on which a business case can be built.
The approach outlined in the recent department for Communities and Local Government publication "An Analytical Framework for Community Empowerment Evaluations" (Dickinson and Prabhakar, 2009) advocates a process which incorporates many of the key features contained in the Business Case tool and in the SROI methodology.
"In ... complex processes ... placing a financial value on even the most basic costs becomes a laborious and time-consuming task unless the measurement is built into the process from the start." (Andersson, E, Warburton, D and Wilson, R, 2007: 'The True Costs of Public Participation in Re-energizing Citizenship: Strategies for civil renewal', Brannan, T, John, P and Stoker, G (eds). Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, p 147)
28 June 2012