A practical guide to demonstrating your value and impact to stakeholders
4 July 2017, Manchester Metropolitan University
What is meant by ‘value’ in the library and information industry? How can information professionals working across a variety of services show impact and value in ways that convince stakeholders? Who are our stakeholders anyway? Working out ways to measure value is a challenge for all of us. This workshop, led by Prof. Alison Brettle and Dr Carolynn Rankin, was designed to equip attendees with some tools and principles to help drive such work.
Attendees came from across the sector and comprised, academic, public, health, schools and specialist librarians. Using group working, the workshop encouraged participants to identify and share the outcomes they expected to achieve, to think about what evidence they could capture and measure, to plot stakeholder relationships affected, and finally the measures that might be used to establish effectiveness.
The evidence we can capture can be obvious: usage statistics, emails, social media ‘likes’ or replies might tell us something about perceptions of current levels of service. We can look for more hidden evidence as well. What tacit knowledge underpins what we do, and why we do it? If a key incident has prompted a service review, what story do we tell about it? From what point of view, and what can that tell us about our service, and our ability to respond? Collecting direct observations in this way can lead to practical and measurable ways to respond to their causes. To be really effective, these stories need to be broken down to help make sense of such them.
To do this, we used two models. The first was an outcomes grid to break down tasks into key stakeholder interests. The idea behind an outcomes grid is simple: first, break down your task or case into stages to form rows in a spreadsheet:
- What is the motive/reason for this task/case?
- The desired outcome (which might not be the actual outcome)
- Possible measures that might be of interest
- The measures developed and applied to the project (questionnaires, statistics, etc.)
Next, add as many columns as needed for each stakeholder, forming a grid. The idea is to identify what value each stakeholder would see at each stage of the case you are proposing. What investment might they have in each of the four stages? Once you have identified those, you can think about how you will measure them. For example, in relation to measuring Information Literacy effectiveness, a student might see a particular grade improvement as a desired outcome; a head of library services might see the improved profile and reputation of the library as a desirable outcome. Though related to each other, they will be measured in different ways.
This process helped me to better appreciate the wider role of each stakeholder at each stage, as well as spot practical questions to address.
The other tool applied used in the workshop was a logic model. The key difference from the first model was its ability to identify consequence. A logic model seeks to show how movement through a series of steps will deliver a particular outcome. This is often known as the if/then principle (‘if’ we do this, ‘then’ this will occur). This had the advantage of making the proposed impact measures seem meaningful by showing how they will be delivered. There is more on these models in the NHS Knowledge for Healthcare toolkit.
As I worked with these models, I realised that they don’t have to be used in isolation. The scenario I worked on in the workshop was on improving the capture of information showing the impact of information literacy (IL) on students (hard to get at the best of times). I began to think about other frameworks related to IL that I could cross-reference with the logic model being produced, and this helped deliver a more coherent plan.
This workshop is invaluable to the more isolated sections of our workforce, such as school librarians, who face very real pressures to demonstrate their impact. I also saw a need to break away from some of the inward-looking habits we can all too easily fall into and develop a more outward-looking and engaged mindset for showing impact.
There is lots more to be found on measuring impact, identifying stakeholder interests and logic models using your CILIP online journal subscription to ProQuest Library Science.
For a good general overview of logic models, and the factors involved in measuring impact in libraries, see Moe Hosseini-Ara & Jones, R. (2013) ‘Overcoming our habits and learning to measure impact’ Computers in Libraries, 33:5, pp.3-7.