Theory of Change for Greggs Foundation

greggs shop.jpg

One of the reasons that Greggs is amongst the nation’s best-loved brands is that it genuinely cares for the the communities in which its shops are located and has a well-developed programme through which it ‘gives back’. The Greggs Foundation approached Goodlabs to lead a strategic piece of work that would help them to do better in tracking their outcomes, using data to learn, improve and communicate.

At the heart of the Impact Framework that Goodlabs is designing for them is a new Theory of Change. This visual process model explains the relationships between the problem being addressed, the resources deployed, the actions taken and the outcomes achieved. Through the Theory of Change and the associated Impact Framework the Foundation’s trustees and SMT will achieve greater clarity around what is changing for the better in the lives of its beneficiaries.

The new framework will be used to monitor and evaluate performance based on a more precise definition of grant programme outcomes, via a range of measurable indicators. The end result will be an ability to communicate the impact of the charity with increased confidence to both internal and external stakeholders.

Empowering communities in Northumberland


Evaluating the impact of charity services and community programmes has become an important aspect of Goodlabs’ offer over the last couple of years. Sometimes we handle evaluations in-house and on other occasions team up with other evaluators. This month we commenced a new partnership project with Asset Based Consulting and Helme Park. Together we’ll be evaluating one of the most innovative new projects taking place in the North East: the Empowering Communities project, working across Northumberland.

The joint initiative from Northumberland County Council and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is rooted in the theory of Salutogenesis: an approach the focuses on the factors that make us well, rather than those that make us ill. Trevor Hopkins brings exceptional insight to the team having written extensively on the subject of Asset Based Community Development in recent years. Simon Penhall is well respected for his work in the arena of Theory of Change. Goodlabs will be contributing substantially to a series of ‘Lab’ events through which VSCO’s will be consulted, as well as assessing the effectiveness of a new ‘Asset Mapping’ technology that will be rolled out through the project.

Working with Lloyds Bank Foundation

black horse x1000.jpg

We are thrilled to announce that Goodlabs has become a consultancy parter for the Lloyds Bank Foundation. LBF is one of the most respected and reliable supporters of the charitable sector. Through its various grant making programmes in supports many hundreds of charities every year with almost £20 million of financial assistance. One of the special ways in which Lloyds seeks to make a difference is through a package of support known as ‘Enhance’. This support is directed not towards frontline charity services but rather to the strengthening of the charitable organisation. Essentially, the Enhance programme is founded on exactly the same ethos that Goodlabs is: helping you to do good better. Charities in the Northern region who are in receipt of LBF funding now qualify for packages of consultancy support from Goodlabs. The work we deliver within the Enhance programme will include our core offer around Impact Management culture and systems, our full range of Lab formats, plus bespoke services in the area of developing Strategic plans and broader Organisational development support.

Click here to find out more about the Lloyds Bank Foundation.

Evaluating support to Adult Carers

ACES cover.png

The Big Lottery is the UK’s largest community funder with annual grant-making in excess of £500million per year to over 10,000 grant recipient organisations. As such, ensuring that its money is well-spend and making an impact is hugely important.

Goodlabs were appointed to evaluate the impact of a substantial three-year grant given to North Tyneside Carers Centre in support of their work with Adult Carers. A carer is anyone who cares, unpaid, for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health or substance misuse problem cannot cope without their support. Many carers struggle alone and do not know their rights or that help is available to them. Taking on a caring role can mean facing a life of poverty, isolation, frustration, ill health and depression.

Our evaluation looked at the full range of support activities being provided to Adult Carers and included interviewing staff, volunteers, beneficiaries and professional stakeholders. There was also the task of scrutinising, assessing and interpreting 3 years worth of management data relating to over 1000 clients.

We were pleased to report that NTCC exceeded the overall numbers of carers that it hoped to reach and that the ACES project achieved its goals in each of its four key outcome themes. Lessons learned over the course of the project were included in our final report, along with a number of strategic recommendations for the future to further strengthen organisational capacity.

Conducting evaluations is a growing part of our work at Goodlabs. Please do get in touch if you’d like us to tender for proposal work that you might have coming up:

Practicing Responsible Business

L-R: Matt Wilson, MD, Goodlabs; Nigel Smith, Chairman, Ringtons; Hugh Welch, Senior Partner, Muckle LLP; Andrew Haigh, CEO, Newcastle Building Society; Lisa Cappleman, Principal Advisor for Giving & Philanthropy, Community Foundation; Richard Hutton, Financial Director, Greggs.

L-R: Matt Wilson, MD, Goodlabs; Nigel Smith, Chairman, Ringtons; Hugh Welch, Senior Partner, Muckle LLP; Andrew Haigh, CEO, Newcastle Building Society; Lisa Cappleman, Principal Advisor for Giving & Philanthropy, Community Foundation; Richard Hutton, Financial Director, Greggs.

Event report from: Making A Difference: Game-changing CSR ideas for business.

It was a real pleasure to chair this event taking place as part of the wider GeNErosity festival. The role of chair at headline events like this does bring with it a certain weight of expectation, as well as the very real possibility that all manner of things may well go wrong. Thankfully the organising team from Muckle LLP did an absolutely fabulous job, as always, of looking after all the practicalities, enabling me to focus on ensuring that we squeezed the best possible content out of our assembled panellists.

Our stellar line up included:
·      Lisa Cappleman, Principal Advisor for Giving and Philanthropy at the Community Foundation for Tyne, Wear and Northumberland.
·      Richard Hutton, Financial Director of Greggs plc.
·      Andrew Haigh, Chief Executive of Newcastle Building Society
·      Nigel Smith, Chairman of Ringtons Limited
·      Hugh Welch, Senior Partner, Muckle LLP

Lisa kicked off, setting the event within the larger frame of the historic contribution of successful businesses to the prosperity of the North East. This theme of business functioning as a contributors to society, rather than as extractors from it, ran throughout the event.  

Richard presented the challenge of how clarity of ambition is absolutely essential in a business of 22,000 people. The whole team need to be clear how responsible business translates into their day-to-day working life. He also took time to show how this clarity of ambition is defined within core business areas, such as creating a more healthy menu for customers.

Andrew stressed how important it is for businesses to go beyond CSR, to really work out how social purpose integrates with the overall purpose of the business – what some refer to as ‘The Big Why’. Getting this right will then lead to good corporate decision-making as a result. He gave the example of investing in their network of high street branches at a time when their competitors are embarking on programmes of branch closures.

Nigel, who represents the 4th generation of Rington’s tea supply and retail business stressed the importance of having a long-term approach. This multi-generational perspective has led his company to make important decisions that have undoubtedly strengthened their business as well as ensuring that their staff and suppliers are well looked-after. The importance of looking after tea-growers in communities on the other side of the world is clearly something that this proud family firm hold dear.

Finally, Hugh took the time to explain how an effective and multi-faceted CSR programme can be built steadily over time. He stressed the importance of ensuring agreement on goals amongst the top-tier of the organisation, as well as ensuring that staff who may not ever be part of a boardroom conversation still have the opportunity to shape things. He was wonderfully honest with examples of what had and hadn’t worked, encouraging the audience to be pragmatic in developing their own unique approach.

Fielding questions from the audience is very often the most fascinating part of these events. On this occasion they ranged from the macro-economics of the North East functioning as a ‘branch economy’ to the fundamental realities for local charities in terms of how they can begin to build partnerships with businesses in the region.  

Probably the most fertile area of conversation related to what is broadly referred to as ‘values’ – although that word wasn't necessarily used a lot. It was very clear that each of the companies represented had become well practised in making strategic business decisions informed by motives broader than the simple generation of greater profits. These non-financial factors, be they a commitment to the environment, to community, to workforce etc, have very evidently become important drivers of organisational vitality. As such I left the event feeling very optimistic about the future of our region if the attitude of these business leaders is in any way indicative of the direction that business is heading in.

Matt Wilson
MD, Goodlabs Consulting




Preparing for a festival of Philanthropy

generosity Festival graphic.jpg


Goodlabs recently spent the day delivering a Lab at the Community Foundation.
We're thrilled with the feedback!  


In preparation for the GeNErosity Festival 2018, Matt ran a bespoke Lab with a number of charitable organisations who are involved in running events at the Festival.
Matt created a safe environment for creative thinking, forward planning and careful reflection. He manages to tease out ideas from a diverse group and give them the forum to develop them more fully. It served as a great opportunity for our groups to assess their events, their audience and impact.
The feedback was very positive and they left with a renewed sense of purpose and motivation. It was ideal for our groups and we would certainly look at running other labs in future.
Alastair Walker, Project Officer – GeNErosity Festival
Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland

Click here to find out more about the GeNErosity Festival. 

Assessing the Impact of Skateboarding!


Skateboarding occupies a substantial niche within the broader sporting landscape. Data shows that over 50,000 people in England regularly participate. It is also recognised that Skateboarding exerts an even larger cultural influence through fashion, media and video games. At Toyko 2020 it will debut as an Olympic Sport.

Against this backdrop Goodlabs is excited to have been appointed to undertake an Impact Assessment on behalf of one of Britain’s most iconic Skateboarding facilities, a social enterprise located in Manchester. Over more than a decade Projekts MCR aka ‘The Pumpcage’ has grown a large and diverse community of enthusiasts who together make around 20,000 visits per year. All are welcome, young and old, male and female, beginners and advanced.

Starting with the obvious health impacts of regular physical exercise our Impact Assessment will also consider the impact upon the mental and emotional wellbeing of participants, the benefits of belonging to a supportive community, the impacts of the associated school-outreach programme, and the economic benefits to Manchester of the thousands of visitors who flock to the park from far and wide.

The Impact Assessment work forms part of a £320,000 investment plan to upgrade and extend the facility, securing its future for at least another 10 years.

The Sport Relief video below narrated by Tom Daley explains just a little of what makes Projekts so special...

Impact management and cancer breakthroughs

laboratory-2815641_1280 copy.jpg

One of the biggest medical stories of the year so far was last week’s announcement that a new gene test can be used through which “70% of women with the most common form of early stage breast cancer can be spared the agony of chemotherapy". The method applied in the new cancer research is a perfect case study for anyone interested in impact management.

Much like complex medicines, the majority of change-oriented human services are not single-hit remedies but rather combined intervention packages that combine to create an effect over time. An employability scheme may involve life-skills training, mock interviews and work experience. A drug rehab scheme may bring together medication with one-to-one counselling and group therapy. You’ll be able to think of many more examples.  

An impact management approach always strives to ask not simply “what is our success rate” but to go deeper asking “what can we discover about who our intervention is and isn’t successful for, and why”. That’s the question that drove the breast cancer research team to make their breakthrough. They discovered that for the majority of women treated the chemotherapy element of the intervention proved to be wholly ineffective and unnecessary. So is this a question that your organisation is giving due consideration to?  

At Goodlabs we believe that a disciplined approach to service delivery, supported by appropriate data collection and the opportunity for the delivery team to regularly reflect together on results is essential to generating these sort of breakthrough insights.

Finally, a related ethical question worth considering is, “If you discovered tomorrow that an element of your service provision is ineffective for a certain client group – what would you do?” What if that service is part of a commissioning package for which you are well paid? How likely would you be to implement changes to your model, and how quickly? Would you begin to screen out certain clients from your service – after all, why waste their time and yours? Could you re-design aspects of your service to better meet the needs of those for whom it is found to be ineffective?

All vital questions that today’s social leaders need to be wrestling with! Do leave a comment to let me know if any of this resonates with you. 

The Art of Impact


I’m looking forward to presenting at the annual YMCA Chief Executives Network conference later this week. My focus will be on the recent Impact Management project I’ve been doing for YMCA Humber and YMCA North Tyneside.

Kicking off the session I want to face the fact that for those in the business of restoring damaged lives ‘Impact’ is a pretty bizarre choice of word. It is defined as “forcible contact or collision; the act of striking against”. As anyone who’s had a prang in their car knows that impact leaves a noticeable impression. The force can produce an unwanted change in shape. So how can this be a positive thing?

This is why we need to place the idea of Impact within the wider discipline of Impact Management. The positive potential of Impact is unleashed when it is carefully controlled and directed. Think about the way a sculptor skilfully rests the chisel against the rock before striking with just the right amount of force. Deploying a lucid imagination, a trained eye and the repetition of artfully applied blows beauty is slowly revealed. 

When considered this way Impact Management suddenly feels like a perfectly appropriate way to describe a process of personal transformation.

Of course every metaphor has its limitations and I won’t be wanting to give the CEO’s gathered the impression that their organisation’s clients are lifeless boulders. What I do want to do however is to help people to see that Impact Management is not an obscure branch of science to be sub-contracted to spreadsheet-happy ex-accountants; rather it is an artisan process, concerned with deeply human subject matter.

I believe that if we can first conceive of Impact Management as an Art rather than a Science, then we will ensure that we keep in mind the necessity and intensity of personal investment required. In doing this we will avoid losing touch with the real people whose stories often remain hidden in the aggregate data. We will foster working environments for our teams that unlock the imagination they need to respond on a daily basis to the raw human material as they journey with clients in their process of restoration and lasting transformation.

Do let me know any thoughts you might have about the distinction between Impact as an Art and Impact as a Science. I’d love to hear from you.

Showing your Impact to Donors

pow wide.png

When we give to charity we like to know that our donation is going to make an impact. Much of this is based on trust. We receive communication from the charity about the nature and extent of the work they're delivering and draw our conclusions from it. If we want to be particularly diligent, perhaps because we’re thinking about making a large donation, we might take a look at their last available annual report. Typically this will include a chart that seeks to offer a degree of transparency about how much it costs to run the charity (i.e. its administrative overheads) in relation to the amount spent on delivering its core mission, what we might call its interventions. 

On this basis all charities tend to look very similar. Trustee boards and executive teams know that donors don't like to see too much money being spent on overheads, expecting as much of their giving as possible to be directed to the ‘front line’. This is where understanding Impact makes all the difference.

The Charity annual report, increasingly referred to as an ‘Impact report’, will describe the nature and variety of work being undertaken, along with statistics about how much of it is happening and who is benefitting from it i.e. elderly people, children, donkeys etc. For an Annual Report to truly become an Impact Report it needs to give a clear picture of what is changing for the better as a result of its interventions.

An awkward, but legitimate question that a donors might ask, is:

  •  how often does the charity make an intervention without any change resulting?

We can explain this using the diagrams below.

Charity A and Charity B are involved in identical work, both with annual turnovers of £1 million. On the surface seem to be identically efficient – with 10% of their income going to overheads and the rest to interventions.


However, if we could see more deeply into the impact of the two charities we would see that Charity A has an 80% success rate and Charity B has a 50% success rate.


If a donor has £100 to give it would now be clear to which charity that donation would be most effectively directed. 

Finally, if the donor really wants to be assured that their giving will make the maximum impact then it would also be good to know what the expected success rate is within that particular sector. For example, charities working to rehabilitate ex-prisoners may be delighted if half of those they work with to go straight. If the focus of the charity is helping unemployed school leavers to get jobs then the expected rate of impact might be more like 80%.

Goodlabs believes that if charities will be more transparent with their donors about these issues, then greater trust will result, which is essential to a long-term donor engagement strategy.  

If you run a charity and would like help in demonstrating your Impact to potential donors then drop us a line at

Empowering Places


Goodlabs is delighted to have joined the Approved Provider pool for the Empowering Places programme from Power to Change. We will be offering consultancy support in the areas of Impact Management, Stakeholder Engagement and Advocacy. 

A Big Lottery-funded programme, Empowering Places has been developed in order to offer local organisations strategic support and resources that will empower local groups to grow community businesses, working towards a vision of transformed places.

Power to Change works to build ‘better places through community business.’ Through their partnership working around Britain they demonstrate that community businesses revive local assets, protect the services people rely on, and address local needs. The strategic delivery partners working with Power to Change to deliver the Empowering Places programme are Co-operatives UK, the New Economics Foundation and CLES (Centre for Local Economic Strategies).



YMCA Impact Management


If Impact can be measured then it can also be managed. That is the core conviction of the Impact Management Programme, the latest offering from Access - the foundation for social investment. Goodlabs founder Matt Wilson was alerted to the opportunity via membership of Social Value UK, the innovative organisation championing best practice in social impact reporting. 

Goodlabs joined forces with another North East based social impact consultancy - Helmepark - to put together a successful £50,000 bid to the Impact Management Fund on behalf of two regional YMCA centres. YMCA North Tyneside has been serving the industrial communities along the river Tyne for over a century, supporting successive generations through cycles of social and economic change. It has continuously evolved as an organisation in order to best serve the changing needs of its communities, and in order to maintain its own financial sustainability. YMCA Humber has a very similar heritage and through its three supported accommodation locations in Grimsby provides over 100 bed-spaces every night of the year.  

The journey we're involved in together is helping the teams at the YMCA centres to manage their impact more effectively through bespoke new impact management tools embedded within an increasingly well-informed impact culture.