X Factor judges give ‘a million per cent yes’. Football pundits explain ‘it was a game of two halves’. And politicians tell us ‘the fact of the matter’. We know that the housing sector hasn't escaped the world of clichés but I've become rather familiar with a certain phrase in recent years.
Comparing apples with apples.
It lurks wherever there’s talk of benchmarking the performance of one housing provider against another. We measure our rankings, quartiles and trends for hundreds of metrics, all to help us drive improvements and cut costs. And we wrestle with how to make our results as comparable as possible. Like we do with apples, apparently.
But there is one area of high spending and enormous social impact that nobody in social housing or beyond has ever successfully compared or understood - grant funding.
Until now that is.
Last month a free tool was launched by 360Giving that brings together open, comparable grants data. The GrantNav tool allows you to see who is funding what, where and how much. At the last count, data for more than 180,000 grants totalling more than £8billion has been shared and is available to view, all adhering to an agreed format – the 360Giving standard.
For practitioners in social housing, this is especially important. It’s no secret that our sector continues to grapple with methods of best practice for effectively assessing and demonstrating the social value that it generates. That’s not to say there aren’t some very useful valuation tools and methodologies out there already, nor that we haven’t been collectively moving in the right direction towards a more integrated approach. However, what really strikes a chord with GrantNav, is the sheer scale of the project. If it succeeds in realising its ambitions – and if the recent launch is anything to go by, there is little reason to believe why it shouldn’t - GrantNav will be sharing the data of at least 80% of UK grants by 2020. This really matters, because all of that accumulated data will make a serious difference; allowing funders to become even more strategic and focused in the decision-making part of the funding process.
Like many landlords, One Manchester invests thousands per year in community projects. We review applications looking for opportunities to make the greatest impact on our neighbourhoods.
We oversee multiple grant applications and funding streams which contribute towards all kinds of essential projects from youth programmes, cultural engagement schemes, sporting activities for minority groups, to business skills, computing courses and much, much more. Taking stock of our investments and making sure that we can get the best return, is crucial for the ongoing success of each and every one of these projects.
We previously did this based on the details provided in each application, combined with our own local knowledge. But GrantNav offers a whole new level of insight, connecting our investment with those of other grant-awarding bodies – from the Big Lottery to Comic Relief.
Sharing and using data in this way will steer us and other grant makers away from pouring money into the same types of projects. It frees us to invest in a range of groups that provide different opportunities. GrantNav will help us to spot any gaps in community funding as well as any duplication.
We may be the first housing provider to share our funding data via the tool, but hopefully just the first of many. If 360Giving is to achieve the target of publishing 80% of UK grants by 2020, they're going to need people to spread the word and get sharing data.
Our decision to sign up to GrantNav enables the public to access One Manchester’s published grant data in an accessible, central location for the very first time. We value trust and transparency as a business and this latest development means we will be able to deliver our award grants even more effectively across our communities. However, we don’t wish to be alone in this. If we are to ensure better decision-making and learning across the board, we will need our associates across the country to also take this next step into open data. We hope that our confidence in this service will encourage other registered providers and grant awarding bodies to join.
No clear figure exists as to how much grant funding is awarded by social housing providers in the UK. But a quick tour of housing provider websites shows many of us are investing a significant amount of funding to support community projects in our neighbourhoods.
If we are going to do that as effectively as possible, then it's time we got all our grants data looking like a certain unmentionable fruit and sharing it. That way we'll benefit other funding organisations and ultimately, the people living in our communities.
To find out more and to view funding awarded in your area, visit www.threesixtygiving.org
Business Intelligence and Performance Improvement Manager