2016 in Review

It may be late, but you know what they say, better late than never. January is a time for reflection and it is hard not to get swept up in the ‘New Year New Me’ resolutions fever. We’ve hoped to take a more measured approach to this, allowing a little more time than we would normally before reflecting on the previous year. Partly for pragmatic reasons, we had an extremely busy month and struggled for time to blog and to set our strategic direction for the year ahead.

Following our own advice, we have started by looking back at what has really worked in our business over the past year. It is a great starting point to see what you’ve achieved, how you went about doing it, and to identify the types of project and client you ideally want to work with in the year to come. By being clear about what we’ve enjoyed and done well, we can see exactly who we need to target in order to grow our business. Deciding on the type of project we love to work on means we can aim to do more of it, and to sustain the huge levels of passion and enthusiasm for the work that our clients expect of us.

Here are a few of our highlights from 2016:

  • Drafting an Evaluation Report for a small charity to submit to Big Lottery. On the face of it, this does not sound like the most interesting thing to write, but you’d be wrong. Anna has spent almost three years working with this charity, speaking to service users at focus groups or whole day evaluations, attending volunteer courses or celebration events, mapping performance and identifying the real benefits and outcomes for the people who rely on the charity for support. We have been privileged to see the progress made on the project and to work with the charity to ensure that they are working as effectively as possible to support some really hard to reach and vulnerable families within their community.
  • Proofreading and Editing a manuscript of poetry and songs aimed at children. It almost feels like it isn’t work when you can indulge your love of nonsense poetry and get stuck into a rhyming dictionary on a daily basis. It is fantastic to be trusted with the creative endeavours of another person and to be able to add to it in a small way whilst ensuring it is polished and ready for publication is one of the things we love doing.
  • Undertaking an Organisational Review for a local charity. We were pleased to be invited to review the work of a previous client who had been lucky enough to secure five years’ of funding to continue the work they do in their community. In the process of analysing their current working practice, organisational structure and management practices we helped them identify a few areas to start working on to improve their outcomes. We advised on the strategic steps they should be taking to ensure future sustainability and build capacity (in line with the funding requirements Big Lottery put in place).
  • In terms of Fundraising, we assisted in drafting and editing three successful £250k+ bids for funding, ensuring three charities can continue the inspiring and necessary work they do in their communities. We’re proud to have helped them keep the doors open and the donations flowing.
  • Managed Social Media for a national educational campaign aimed at maintaining and boosting creativity in education. This has been great fun, we’ve assisted in creating campaign materials including posters and online content, and even live tweeted a Q&A session with educational specialists including Professors, STEAM campaigners, teaching union representatives and MPs. It was rewarding to be part of promoting a cause we believe in, creativity is so vital for development and should never be an additional extra at school, plus it was great fun for us to take part in a family activity day that involved getting our hands dirty creating protest art at the National Railway Museum in York.
  • Finally, we’ve taken over management of all Consultation and Engagement activities for a public sector organisation and two small businesses. Maintaining a higher level of impartiality that would not otherwise be available and offering all the efficiency benefits that outsourcing can offer.

This barely scratches the surface, we’ve helped write business plans to get new ideas off the ground, created website copy and blog articles to promote art classes and encourage people of all abilities to get involved, ghost written a performance management e-book and short fictional story, and drafted bids and tenders to cover topics from gardening and building maintenance to furniture supply.

We’re looking forward to more of the same this year and if you’ve got a new project you’d like some professional writing and management consultancy support to deliver we’d love to hear from you. We care deeply about what we do and aim to please. For us, the best kind of customer is a repeat one, and we are passionate about building a great working relationship with our clients, understanding and responding to their needs and implementing solutions that deliver the results they crave.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Making it Personal: Meet the Team Question Prompts

If you’ve been tasked with creating content for the Meet the Team section of your website don’t panic, just remember to make it personal. People love to read about other people, what they like or dislike, what they do in their spare time, what their story is.

A list that tells you their job title, exactly where they graduated and when, where they’ve worked previously and how long they have been with the company isn’t all that inspiring. It’s easy to come across as impersonal, maintaining a professional façade when describing yourself and your team mates can translate as being cold to a reader. Especially when accompanied by a bland headshot with a white corporate background.

The best relationships are built on trust, authenticity and to some extent, a little vulnerability. You need to let the reader know that the people you work with are real, that they can trust you to understand what makes them tick because the real people who they will come into contact with share similar needs and wants.

So ditch the boring bios and bland thumbnails and inject a little fun into your ‘Meet the Team’ webpage. Try out a few of the question prompts below to get started and let people fill out the questions themselves, it’ll sound more authentic if you let their voice shine through anyway.

The same goes for photographs, take your headshots outside in a park, go to a café and snap a few over coffee, ask people to give you a photo of them in their favourite place or doing their favourite activity. Check out the image below, it is of Anna the owner of Active Outcomes in her guise as a volunteer organiser and host at a silent movie themed life drawing event in York earlier this year (the photo was taken by the extremely talented Glen of Allsorts Photography by the way).

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  • What did you want to be when you grew up?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What are your passions in and out of the office?
  • If you could go on an all-expenses paid trip tomorrow where would you go?
  • How did you meet your oldest friend?
  • What can’t you live without?
  • What is your guilty pleasure?
  • What song do you sing in the shower?
  • List three things you love and three that you hate.
  • Tell us three random facts about yourself.
  • If you could time travel to any period in history where would you go?
  • Describe yourself in one word.
  • What is your favourite quote?
  • What quote describes you?
  • Which literary character do you identify with most?
  • What do you never leave home without?
  • Could you go a week without checking your phone?
  • Dog or cat?
  • Tea or coffee?
  • Early bird or night owl?

Of course, you can, (and usually should), include the usual information that establishes the credibility and expertise of your team, and we have included some prompts for this information below, but we feel that a few fun facts that humanise your colleagues will help engage the reader and make them want to work with you.

  • What made you want to work in this particular field?
  • What is your biggest achievement at work?
  • How long have you worked at this company / in this field?
  • What do you enjoy most about working here?
  • What are your main qualifications for your job?
  • What made you want to work for this company?

Let us know what you’d add and if you find any great examples of Meet the Team pages we’d love to see them.

The Story of Active Outcomes

Active Outcomes started with an idea. The same is true of most organisations, but this idea wasn’t exactly my own. I had left my job as a Policy Officer in local government and was considering what I really wanted to do after moving back up north to the beautiful city of York. One of my former work colleagues suggested that I look into training as a proofreader and copy editor as she thought I would be really good at it.

This seed lay dormant for a while as self-employment was not a career option I had considered. I had studied English Literature and Politics at the University of York, followed by a Masters in Public Administration and Public Policy, it had never occurred to me that the world of business and self-employment was a niche I could comfortably fit into.

I struggled to find any opportunities that I really wanted to take advantage of. Job specifications weren’t a good fit, I felt they would not challenge me, or that I would not have a chance to use and further develop the skill set I had already spent years building up.

There was no perfect fit available for me and so I decided to go my own way. Offering a service which used my skills as a writer, researcher, communicator, pedant, manager and analyst. One which might be useful for other small businesses and organisations that may lack that specific strategic skill set that I possess.

Being a solopreneur is challenging. You have to wear a lot of different hats and be flexible and adaptable to rapidly changing circumstances. Having the right skills in place can make all the difference, even if only for a few hours, and that is where I come in. I can offer a fresh pair of eyes and a brand new perspective and find it rewarding to help others see past the problem to find the perfect solution.

For me, no two days are ever the same. I get to work with a huge variety of clients from various backgrounds and sectors. All of whom present me with interesting projects to get stuck into doing the type of work I love, writing, researching, planning and managing projects and performance. Working for myself gives me a chance to indulge my creative side, except for when I’m doing my accounts, of course.

If you want to know anything else about my past experience check out the About Us section of my website, my LinkedIn profile or feel free to get in touch – I’d love to chat.