The Complete Guide to Our Services

Active Outcomes’ goal is to empower you to achieve more in the work you are already doing. We offer a fresh pair of eyes and a new perspective. We work with you to improve the effectiveness of your documents, policies, and processes.With a wide range of services, including fixed-price and bespoke options, we can design a great value support package based on your needs and budget.

Our services fall into four main categories: professional writing, editing and proofreading; project evaluation and monitoring; consultation and engagement; and management.

Professional Writing, Editing, and Proofreading

We believe that words are powerful things and our writing strives to have maximum impact. We work with you to ensure that your documents are working as hard as you are. We’ll develop an understanding of the purpose of the writing, the target audience, the tone you wish your organisation to adopt and the subject matter you want to include.

Our approach involves creating a written solution that is clearly understood and engages well with your target audience to meet a specific purpose. Our services include:

  • Copywriting
  • Copy editing
  • Proofreading

We have drafted a huge variety of documents for clients from Annual Reports to Ziggy Stardust-themed event promotional content. Whether the document is technical in scope, requires a professional tone, or  is more creative, we can help.

Project Evaluation and Monitoring

We can analyse the impact of your service or project, providing an independent evaluation report to submit to funding bodies or to use internally to inform strategic planning. Our person-centred approach helps you demonstrate the difference your project has made to real people. We measure outcomes rather than outputs, share stories rather than statistics, we speak to the people directly affected by your work to help you understand and improve their experience. We offer:

  • Project Evaluation Reports
  • Organisational Reviews
  • Building Capability Assessments
  • Monitoring Reports
  • Ongoing Project and Performance Monitoring

We have developed fixed-price services aimed at charity and community groups to meet the specifications of funding bodies, including Big Lottery. Our user-friendly reporting style allows you to share the evaluation with a broad audience and provides concrete examples of strengths and weaknesses to assist in producing annual reports, press releases, and applications for bids and tenders.

Consultation and Engagement

Our consultation and engagement services let you know what people really think. Our communications are carefully designed to provide you with all the information you need to make key decisions. As we are impartial, people can speak their mind freely. We offer assistance with:

  • Survey design
  • Survey management
  • Online surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Round table events
  • Drop-in information settings
  • Feedback forums

We can help you set realistic objectives, target your audience effectively, and design strategies that deliver real results.

Management

We provide a new perspective so that you can see the way forward. We can undertake ongoing performance monitoring for key indicators, and review current processes and procedures to identify efficiencies and plan sustainable for the future. Services include:

  • Performance management
  • Project management
  • Capacity building
  • Strategic planning
  • Service planning

Our Approach

Active Outcomes focus on people. We listen actively and create solutions that work for you and your organisation. We tell stories that engage the reader. Above all, we talk to people to discover genuine experiences that can be shared to tell the world about your mission and achievements. We use these conversations to create authentic content that really hits home with your target audience.

We would love to chat about what we do, so please do get in touch if you want to see whether we can help you maximise your impact and share your good news.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Power of Habit

Charles Duhigg, (2012),The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How to Change, Random House Books.

An award-winning New York Times journalist, Charles offers an informative yet witty insight into the surprising amount of power that habits hold over us. His simple yet engaging style of writing helps condense what could be dry, technical matters into concrete examples of how overcoming habits has led to massive transformations in the lives of real people, athletes, and multinational companies.

“Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.”

The prologue starts with a bang. Lisa, a woman who had run away to Cairo on a whim after her husband left and demanded a divorce, woke up in a strange bed and tried to light a pen instead of a cigarette. She decided that she needed a goal. Something all-consuming to work toward. In a taxi on her way to go see the pyramids, she made up her mind that she would come back to Egypt and trek through the desert. As an overweight smoker, she knew she would need to make huge lifestyle changes, with no money in the bank and no idea whether such a trip was even possible she committed to trying to achieve that goal.

In a taxi on her way to go see the pyramids, she made up her mind that she would come back to Egypt and trek through the desert. As an overweight smoker, she knew she would need to make huge lifestyle changes, with no money in the bank and no idea whether such a trip was even possible she committed to trying to achieve that goal. The first thing she decided, was to quit smoking.

Four years later, she hadn’t had a cigarette, didn’t drink, had lost sixty pounds, got out of debt, bought a house, ran a marathon, started a Masters degree and had held down her first job for longer than a year at a design firm. And it had started with changing one single “keystone” habit.

Neurologists discovered the patterns inside her brain fundamentally changed. Where her old habits pathways were evident, it was clear that her new habits had overridden this data, any impulses to engage in the old behaviour were crowded out by the new. Instead of craving the satisfaction of giving in to the old habit her brain was now rewarding her for showing self-restraint in her behaviour.

“This is how willpower becomes a habit: by choosing a certain behavior ahead of time, and then following that routine when an inflection point arrives.”

The book covers three main topics, individuals, organisations and societies. Exploring why we do the same thing day in and day out and how companies exploit our shopping habits, or follow the same destructive patterns even when the results are demonstrably growing worse. The section on society also offers some interesting insights into what conditions need to exist in order to facilitate a campaign movement and ensure that people can realign their thinking and move with the changes.

“Someday soon, say predictive analytics experts, it will be possible for companies to know our tastes and predict our habits better than we know ourselves.”

This was a great read, whether you feel the need to start transforming your habits or simply want to see how organisational change happens at a ground-up level. We can highly recommend it. Now, we just have to choose one of our bad habits to focus on and get the ball rolling…

If you have any recommendations for an interesting read we would love to hear from you. We are planning on adding more book reviews to the blog so if you have one that you think is worthy of inclusion we’ll be happy to take a look. Get in touch via Twitter @ActiveOutcomes, email info@activeoutcomes.co.uk, or by visiting http://www.activeoutcomes.co.uk.

NaNoWriMo: How to start writing.

This November I’m writing a novel in my spare time. Rather, I should say, I am trying to.

The National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) offers a space for aspiring writers to announce their intention to write a novel, meet writing buddies, attend local write-ins and it provides an additional boost of motivation as you track your word count and see how it stacks up against others in your region or in the wider world.

According to their press release:

“Last year, NaNoWriMo welcomed 431,626 participants in 633 different regions on six
continents. Of these, more than 40,000 met the goal of writing 50,000 words in a month.”
In my region alone, Yorkshire, there are over 800 novelists signed up. Last year, I’m happy to say, I was one of the 40,000 who did meet their goal and wrote the 50,000+ words necessary to be presented with a Winner certificate.
This year, I’ve had a bit more trouble with getting started. With work and life being a bit hectic over the past few days, I’m already a week into the challenge and the page is blank. I’m happy with my characters and my story arc, everything is plotted on a draft outline but still, I’ve not committed the first sentence to paper (well, word processor) yet.
I wanted to address the issue of getting started. I don’t think that I am alone in worrying about making that first mark. Here’s a quote from an author I admire:
the-fact-is-that-blank-pages-inspire-me-with-terror-what-will-i-put-on-them-will-it-be-good-enough-quote-1

If Margaret Atwood can worry that her writing is not good enough then so can we all. Especially when writing something based purely on your own imagination. You are taking a chance and opening up parts of yourself to public scrutiny. But, as Hemingway said: “The first draft of anything is shit.”  Perhaps, writers do need to take the pressure off themselves by repeating this as a mantra and understanding that writing is hard. That it is never perfect. That way, the idea of writing something terrible on your first attempt is inevitable and therefore less daunting.

Writing is what I do. Today, I’ve written three blog posts for others, scheduled some social media posts and sent numerous emails and one proposal to a prospective client. I’ll estimate that amounts to a word count of around 2,500 words in total. Far in excess of my initial 1,667 words a day goal for NaNo, a target that is now rapidly increasing the longer I leave it to get started.

Writing prompts have started appearing everywhere, I’ve spotted them on Buzzfeed and have seen a few shared by various writing groups I follow on social media. I quite liked the simplicity of this one shared by Writers Write. I’m sure that these prompts will come in handy on the days when my well runs dry and I need a nudge to send my story in an unanticipated direction. What they will not do, however, is get me started.

medium_november_prompts

One fantastic tool I have found was a cheat sheet created by @peter_halasz at No White Space which you can find here. This two-sided, single sheet of A4 paper covers absolutely everything you need to consider to get your story off the ground. One side will help you explore the hero’s journey, decide upon structures, advise on adding conflict, or on making dialogue realistic. The other covers characters,  what motivates them, how they would react in a given situation, their values, virtues, personality type and physical appearance.

Yesterday, I procrastinated by spending a day working through the prompts contained  within this cheat sheet and I now have a far better handle on the story I want to tell and the way the main protagonist will move within these parameters.

I am a planner. I like to have an overview and an outline structure before I start writing a novel. I use post-it notes to draft the hooks I’ll use within the story, key scenes and characters, events and places, I move these around as I find it easier to think visually. They are not fixed, I can re-arrange them at will to change the pace or introduce conflict. This is what works for me.

For me, once I know where I am headed I can flesh out the rest of the detail. Right now, the only place I’m headed toward is disappointment for not reaching my goal of 50,000 words this month. So on that note, I’m going to sign off the blog, brew up a big batch of coffee and start writing in earnest. If I don’t like what I write, well, that is what editing is for isn’t it?

Saying More With Less

We’re living in an information age.  Every day we are bombarded with data, from the moment you switch off the alarm on your phone to that final glance at the screen before you go to sleep. The average person spends hours consuming and producing information daily. Attention spans are decreasing. What people need is for you to get to the point.

According to Statista, 725 minutes every day was spent consuming media in the US in April 2016. This included a huge:

  • 131 minutes on the computer,
  • 186 on your mobile, and
  • 245 minutes watching TV.

We are all busy. Nobody has time to spend searching through a document for the relevant information. It should be right there, at your fingertips. As soon as people have to work hard to find what they are looking for you risk them giving up and going elsewhere.

So here are Active Outcomes’ tips for crafting clear and concise communications. Whether you are drafting a blog post, leaflet, internal email, or a report that will run to hundreds of pages.


 1. Use plain English.

Jargon has had its day. We like to keep things simple and use plain English. Official, legal, technical, or academic language is entirely appropriate in certain circumstances, but you need to consider your audience carefully.

As they say over at The Plain English Campaign, it is easier to read, easier to write and you get your message across. Here is how they describe plain English:

“It is a message, written with the reader in mind and with the right tone of voice, that is clear and concise.”

2. Simplify your communications.

A one-on-one conversation can help avoid misunderstandings, but when this isn’t possible, you need to make sure your message comes across loud and clear.

When writing, imagine that you are talking directly to your reader. Adopt a tone of voice that will engage with your audience. If they don’t understand what you are trying to say your message will never be received.

Don’t overwhelm people with details, include lists and bullet points if you can. Use short sentences and active verbs. Make sure any charts or graphics are clear, with explanations or instructions for interpreting data if necessary.

A great tool to help with this is to simply ask someone to take a look at what you have written and check that they understand what you were trying to say. Get them to explain it back to you in their own words. You’ll see what they picked up on and what they missed or misunderstood.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” –Albert Einstein

3. Have a plan.

Before you start writing, jot down all the points you need to cover. Move these points around until they are in a logical order.

Think about what you aim to achieve, what information are you going to share, who will you target, what will the end result be? The more specific you can be, the better.

4. Don’t value a document by its weight.

It can be tempting to pad a report out so that people see all your background research and can tell at-a-glance the amount of effort you put in. Resist. A document should be as long as necessary to give relevant information. If your intended audience does not read the document you have to ask yourself what was the point.

Consider including a briefing note that outlines the contents of the report, give additional information as appendices so people can refer to the data if they choose.

5. Simplicity is deceptive.

Finding the right words to get your point across quickly, and clearly, takes time.

 “Good design is as little design as possible.” – Dieter Rams

Thinking about writing from a design perspective can help. A designer must create a product that completes various functions and takes a form that customers find both attractive and easy to use. Writing should be the same.

Finding Time to Blog

It’s Anna here to confess that I have been struggling to find time to write this blog. For that, I must hold my hands up and apologise as I know all the benefits of blogging and the excuse that I was busy isn’t good enough. I should have made more time to write for my business, rather than just as part of my business.

It seems odd to think about it in these terms, but it can be harder to write for your own business than for somebody else. You’re often too close to what you are doing to take that step back and write objectively and you can fall into the trap of assuming that other people know as much about what you have been up to as well as you do. There’s a saying about assumptions isn’t there?

I write articles and blog posts for others frequently. I dash off web copy and social media content that reflects the brand and tone of voice of my clients and help them to establish their business online and yet I’m often guilty of neglecting to do so for my own business despite knowing how much it would raise my visibility online. I’m using this blog post to commit publically to regular updates and to ask people to get in touch if there is anything they think I could help them with.

Productivity hacks are ubiquitous online, (and they provide a guilt-lite form of procrastination too…) I have read and shared many myself. One of my favourite ideas is to plan your time in blocks. When you look at your entire week as a series of blocks of time you begin to see how much can be achieved in each and gain a greater understanding of what you can do with a limited resource (time).

The 50/10 rule can help maintain focus and gives enough time to achieve a task (such as writing a blog post) and it doesn’t require any app downloads or fancy kit. All you need is to time yourself and work for 50 minutes and rest for 10. If you’ve worked at your desk the whole time it might help to stand or take a quick walk, but the choice is yours, use those 10 minutes to grab a drink, watch a funny cat video, send an email, or check social media, it’s your rest time.

I think the most important aspect is that 50 minutes is a manageable amount of time to be out of contact. You can check your emails after the time has elapsed and will find that you don’t need to react straight away to every email as it hits your inbox. This technique helps you realise that time is an asset and that you can achieve a lot more in a shorter period of it but only if you work distraction free.

If 50 minutes might be a little too long for you, the Pomodoro Technique might be better suited, with each 25 minute Pomodoro being tracked to see how long tasks take and then planning your time around completing tasks distraction free based on however many Pomodoros you need. Say you’re clearing out your inbox at the end of the week, see how long it takes using Pomodoro time periods and then the week after you’ll know how long to set aside to achieve this objective.

I really recommend that you break projects down into smaller tasks that you can tick off rapidly in order to really measure progress and feel fired up about what you have managed to get done. I’m going to do this with blog posts. Rather than spending a day scheduling a few when I’m free, instead I’ll dedicate an hour a week to drafting one really good post in 50 minutes. Then I’ll spend the other 10 recharging my batteries by making a cup of tea and checking how many likes I got on the latest picture of my dog I uploaded on Facebook.

 

7 Top Tips: Focus Groups

Why bother with a focus group?

You may think that you can learn enough by sending out a questionnaire and asking people to tick boxes. And sometimes this is sufficient, for example, if you only want to know how many people like a product. If what you actually need to know is why they like it, then you need to let your customers have a natural conversation about it.

Active Outcomes have a lot of experience in facilitating focus groups and want to share our top tips to help you get started. So take a look at the advice below and give it a try – you might be surprised what your customers can tell you. N.B. even if some of what your customers have to say is negative, this is not necessarily a bad thing. We have blogged on the importance of negative feedback before – check out what we have to say on the subject here.

1. Planning is EVERYTHING!

  • Invite the right people.
  • Decisions on where to hold the session and when must be based on your customers’ needs – not your own.
  • Be very clear on what you want to gain from the session before you draft your questions. This should shape the content of the sessions to get you the data you need.

2: Location, Location, Location

  • Make this as easy to access as possible, with good public transport links, fully accessible for people with mobility issues and easy to find with clear directions as to how to get there and who to ask for, and let the staff on reception know when to expect participants and where to send them.
  • Consider a neutral venue: for example, if you hold the session in your company HQ people may be reluctant to share negative opinions about their employer whilst under their roof, while this is especially relevant for internal staff focus groups any focus group can benefit from being held in a neutral setting.
  • People need to feel comfortable sharing, set up seats facing each other, remember it is a conversation and not an interrogation.

3: Incentives

  • These can be tricky to get right and divide opinion, some people swear by them others think they skew results.
  • If you do choose to offer an incentive be clear on why you are offering it. An incentive to get someone to attend at all means something entirely different to one that only covers their transport costs.
  • Remember it is not always appropriate to offer an incentive, in fact, if you suspect people may only attend to gain the “gift” the data you gather may not be relevant anyway.

4: Questions

  • These need to be open-ended, they should act as springboards for discussion, not a show of hands.
  • Think about how long you have and how many attendees, for an hour-long session with 10 people 6-8 questions would be the absolute maximum we’d recommend in order to rattle through in that time.
  • Read them out loud, check they make sense, try to run them by a colleague or captive friend. Just because you know what you mean doesn’t mean that others will! Don’t waste time explaining yourself that you could spend in discussion instead.

5: Prompting Answers

  • Sometimes discussion may stall – but be very cautious when you try to prompt any answers.
  • You are there to encourage the conversation – not to put across opinions of your own. A few stock phrases that can help get things going again are:
    • “You haven’t shared your opinion with the group yet.”
    • “Please can you give me an example?”
    • “Does anyone here feel differently?”
  • Remember to include all participants – don’t let one or two dominate the proceedings.
  • Don’t be afraid to interrupt if you need to move the discussion along, thank people for getting so involved in the discussion but tell them that you must be mindful that the time you have is limited and you have a lot more ground to cover.

6: Impartiality and Confidentiality

  • It is vital that participants know why they are being asked these questions and what the data will be used for.
  • Will answers be anonymised and kept confidential?
  • Consider using a Consent Form – we have a great Cheat Sheet to help you gain consent available here.
  • Tell people how you will protect their personal data.
  • If you are recording the session tell them how this will be used.
  • Consider using an impartial outsider to chair the session – this can ensure you get more honest answers.

7: Admin

Everyone has their own way of doing things but we find these tricks usually help the session run smoothly:

  • Number stickers: assign participants numbers to ensure anonymity.
  • Record: an audio recording allows for more accurate transcription – digital recorders are relatively inexpensive and can ensure that you don’t miss anything, otherwise, your trusty smart phone is quite likely to have a voice record function you could use.
  • Consent: get the group to sign a consent form and include the rules of behaviour for the session, i.e. one at a time, all opinions are valid… check out our Cheat Sheet for more info on this here.
  • Refreshments: offer drinks, snacks, they help people feel comfortable.
  • Activities: sometimes an activity helps prompt discussion, e.g. get people to write down their own top three ideas on sticky notes and then work as a group to establish an overall order.

    Focus Group
    Focus Group Refreshments

The Fundamentals of Writing a Case Study

What exactly is a case study?

In the simplest terms, a case study is a short story that provides a snapshot and gives an insight into what you do and how you do it. It is a method that an organisation can use to illustrate the way you work and the impact that your service has had on an individual, company or client.

A good case study will tell the reader three main things:

  1. WHAT: the specific problem you needed to address
  2. HOW: your approach to solving this problem
  3. WHY: the end result

 

Why should you bother?

Case studies can be powerful and persuasive tools and, here at Active Outcomes, we feel they are one of the best ways to tell the world what you can offer. When they are done right they tell a story, giving real-life examples that fully explain to people exactly how you solved the problems of your customers, clients, or service users.

They can highlight your success and generate some great publicity. As an added bonus, they are far more interesting than statistics, facts and figures, though, of course, these can be integral to the case study too.

What really sets a good case study apart is the fact that it is personal. It tells the story of an individual set of circumstances, detailing the journey you take with your clients to achieve better outcomes for them and for your own organisation.

 

Our Approach

When Active Outcomes write a case study our starting point is always to establish your exact reason for wanting one. By understanding what you hope the study will achieve we can decide how to structure it and will consider:

  • Target audience;
  • What kind of language and tone of voice to use;
  • Where will it be published;
  • What situation to cover – a typical interaction, a specific story with individual circumstances, your ideal client, your greatest achievement;
  • Who to interview; and
  • The kind of questions we’ll need to ask to gain the information needed.

We use this information to create a framework that will inform us as to what you want the case study to say. We can then ask far more strategic open-ended questions when we interview people, this helps us keep the conversation flowing and ensures that the information we gather will meet the needs you’ve identified for the case study to fill.

When we interview the Case Study subject, we endeavour to capture the essence of their story and to tell it using their own words as much as possible.

As firm believers in the “less is more” mantra – we like to keep Case Studies brief and prefer to work within the constraints of a single page of A4 as a rule, this is around 500 words of text.

 

Example Case Studies

We have worked with a local Home-Start charity to draft two Case Studies to highlight the fantastic support they provide to families with young children. Home-Start offer home-visiting volunteer support to help the parents of young children who are struggling overcome various issues.

Home-Start Hull asked us to write two studies, one to tell the story of their service users, the family; and the other to tell the story of the volunteer who worked with that family to deliver their service. This gave a great insight into the way that both family and volunteer viewed the service and what they felt they had achieved as a result of their interaction with Home-Start.

We interviewed the volunteer and family over the phone and told their stories in the two case studies we’ve included below. These were submitted to a funding body as evidence supporting a funding  Evaluation Report that Active Outcomes produced.

Check out the PDF versions of the family and volunteer case studies by clicking on the links below:

Charity_Family_Case_Study

Charity_Volunteer_Case_Study

As you can see from the two examples, the case studies included:

  • Direct quotes that helped tell the story;
  • A summary of the issues faced by the volunteer/family;
  • Details of how Home-Start worked with them to overcome the problem;
  • Pictures to help illustrate the work they did;
  • The end result and outcomes achieved; and
  • Guaranteed anonymity for the family as they asked that their name be changed.

 

Our Top Tips

  • Keep it simple: don’t use complicated jargon;
  • Have a strong opening: hook the reader right from the start (think about the beginning of a newspaper article, how the journalist will cover the “who, what, where, why and when” in a few sentences, straight away, and then go on to give more detail);
  • Less is more: people are busy, respect their time and your own, and keep your story brief to leave them wanting to know more;
  • Consider your audience: it is so important to think carefully about who will read the Case Study and what you want them to take away from it, if it is a funding body you may want to stress the added value you gave and the eventual outcomes for the service user that their money funded the interaction with, if it is for a potential new client, on the other hand, you need to show how your approach to solving a similar problem can tie in well with their company culture;
  • Use direct quotes: wherever possible, let people tell their story in their own words;
  • Permission: as best practice, you should aim to get the person or organisation who is the focus of the case study to sign off on the draft before it goes public, that way you know they are happy with the way you have chosen to interpret and present their story. This becomes more vital when the participant asks that you respect their privacy by using a pseudonym to maintain their anonymity.

For more information about gaining consent for consultations check out our Cheat Sheet to help you gain consent – available here.

If you’d like to discuss our case study writing services you can chat to us at info@activeoutcomes.co.uk, Tweet @ActiveOutcomes, or visit www.activeoutcomes.co.uk.

Writing for Maximum Impact

Here at Active Outcomes, we focus on helping others achieve the maximum possible impact in all the work they are already doing. For us, that means all writing needs to be high impact, well-targeted and easily understood so that it achieves exactly the result your organisation needs. Here is our advice to help you write it right!

Who will be reading it?

First things first, consider your audience carefully – ask yourself:

  • How technical should I be?
  • Will they understand jargon?
  • Will they be interested in what I am saying?
  • What is their point of view likely to be?

Personalise your writing, tell people exactly how you will help them. Tell them what you have achieved before. If you can tell it as a story – do it – people have been trained since childhood to love to read a good story.

What am I trying to say?

You can’t take back a first impression. So plan carefully what you want to say.

  • Have a main message in mind and stick to it throughout.
  • Try and structure what you write: introduce your topic (consider listing the points you will raise), elaborate upon the main points and then summarise for the reader.
  • Write a list of keywords and be sure to include them.

Remember the Four C’s

An easy way to remember what you should be including (and leaving out) as part of your writing is the Four C’s, explained below.

  • Clear: Use plain English, avoid jargon, stick to your structure.
  • Concise: Less is more – people are busy so get to the point!
  • Considerate: Explain anything your reader may not immediately understand, direct them to additional content.
  • Correct: Proofread! Pprooofraed! Proofread!

Our Top Five Tips and Tricks

1.Grab attention: open with a memorable phrase.

2.Lists: Everyone loves a list, e.g. these are my top five tips…

3.Write to express not to impress!

4.A picture speaks a thousand words: add interest with images.

5.Consistency: use the same formatting i.e. font, size, colour. Don’t switch from first to third person, maintain the same tone throughout (i.e. friendly, academic and so on…)

Our Approach

We focus on people. We listen actively and create copy that works for you and your organisation. We tell stories that engage the reader.

Above all, we talk to people to discover genuine experiences that can be shared and will tell the world about your values and achievements. We use these conversations to create authentic content that really hits home with your target audience.

Words are powerful things. Your customers need to read about your products. Your staff need to understand your policies. You need to communicate your success. We work with you to make sure your documents are working as hard as you are. For more information about our policy writing or copywriting, editing and proofreading services click on the links or visit our website http://www.activeoutcomes.co.uk.

The Hard Truth about Negative Feedback

I’m going to start off by saying that all feedback is important. Great feedback from your service users that you can instantly share with the world to let everyone know what you can offer is a fantastic marketing tool. Plus, it makes you feel good about what you have achieved. Win win.

Do you sense a ‘but’ might be coming up…?

But, negative feedback can be so much more important. I’m sure you’ll be familiar with the phrase ‘We learn from our mistakes‘ or some variant along those lines. It’s true. If people ask me what Active Outcomes do well I can explain the services I offer and direct them toward testimonials from previous clients that will help new customers understand what they can expect to achieve when working with us. What is harder to know, is what people might not like about working with us. Hopefully nothing, we really do try and take care of all our customers – but if we (or you) were getting something wrong – wouldn’t you rather know about it and fix the issue?

What is harder to know, is what people might not like about working with us. Hopefully nothing, we really do try and go above and beyond to take great care of all our customers – but if we (or you, for that matter) were getting something wrong – wouldn’t you rather know about it and fix the issue?

That’s why we think negative feedback is so vital. If you never get any negative feedback you might want to ask yourself why? Are you really hitting every target, or could you be doing anything better? If you get any negative feedback, be open to it, think carefully about how to respond to it and whether you need to take action to address it.

It might seem counterintuitive, but nobody is perfect and we think it is important to gain more negative feedback. You can try to prod gently when asking for feedback to see if there is anything you could improve, anything else they would like to see you offer. Give some examples of things you think are not working so well and see what your customers have to say.

We work with a lot of charities and we find that when we consult with their service users, the people who have been helped by the charity are so grateful for their support that they don’t want to say anything negative about them. Sometimes they simply can’t think of a single negative experience they could report, at others, they don’t want to offend.

In the case of charities, lay your cards on the table and tell your service users how important it is to your organisation that you gain negative feedback so that you can show funders that you are constantly working to improve the service you offer and are acting on suggestions from your service users.

We will be sharing more advice on consultation here on our blog and we have some videos on our YouTube channel to help you with designing consultation activities. To watch our Top Tips for Planning Consultation and Engagement Activities see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kY-F5qR17yo

If you’d like some support consulting your customers, Active Outcomes can help, we are completely impartial and experienced in conducting consultation and community engagement activities. We can provide you with completely independent feedback to provide to funding bodies or to help inform strategic planning.

 

 

 

Cheat Sheet: Risk Logs

Managing risk is an essential part of everyday life. When planning a project, creating and maintaining a Risk Log is something we recommend you make an essential component.

It sounds like it should be complicated, right? Wrong! It needn’t be any more complicated than the example I am going to walk you through now, it’s an easy topic, one that anyone who has ever tried to plan a barbeque in Britain will be able to follow.

RL1

There are eight columns in the risk log template above:

  1. Risk – the name of the risk.
  2. Probability – the likelihood of it happening, 1 = very unlikely, 5 = certain.
  3. Impact – what will the effect on your project will be, 1 = no real issue caused, 5 = catastrophic, derailing the entire project.
  4. Risk Score – Probability Score x Impact Score = Risk Score. The lower the better.
  5. Mitigation – what could you do to manage this risk, either making it less likely to occur or preventing it having such a huge impact?
  6. Contingency – what will you do if the worst does happen?
  7. Action Owner – who is responsible for taking action to prevent the risk?
  8. When – at what point does the Action Owner need to respond?

Our example project is planning a BBQ. So we need to come up with the risks associated and then populate the table. The first risk that sprung to my mind was RAIN!

RL2

Rain is a quite a risk, but to prevent it spoiling the fun you can plan when to hold your event carefully to avoid the times of year when it is most likely to occur. You can also hire a marquee (just in case), move indoors or hand out umbrellas to guests as a contingency if the weatherman gets it wrong and it does happen to be raining on the big day.

The next image shows a few more risks at the BBQ and what can be done to manage them.

RL3

Remember:

  • A Risk Log can and should be a working document, updated regularly to reflect any changing circumstances.
  • Include risks no matter how trivial they seem. One thing often leads to another and sometimes a small thing can trigger a huge unintended consequence.
  • Get as many people as possible involved in brainstorming risks to add to the log, it always helps to get a different perspective, they may spot a few things you missed.

Have a go at completing the Risk Log below to see how easy it is.

RL4

Get in touch with Active Outcomes if you’d like some more information about risk management. We’d love to chat via Twitter @ActiveOutcomes, email info@activeoutcomes.co.uk, or visit our website at http://www.activeoutcomes.co.uk.