Evidence needs to include both numbers and stories

We have a saying at NPC that there should be ‘no stories without numbers, and no numbers without stories’.

What this means is that to really understand what impact an organisation is having or how young people’s lives change, we need a mixture of ‘hard’ evidence (the ‘numbers’) and ‘soft’ anecdotes and examples (the ‘stories’).

At NPC we have learnt that charities are better at stories than numbers. They are experts at telling compelling anecdotes and using case studies. This is hugely valuable.

But it doesn’t always cut the mustard, particuarly when dealing with government commissioners, foundations, and funders that demand hard evidence. This  is one of the reasons we created NPC’s Well-being Measure.

Being able to quantify change allows you so see how much things have improved or how much things need to improve. Numbers are a critical part of the monitoring and evaluation required for making management decisions, which is where our Well-being Measure can help.

But in end we still need numbers and stories: quanititive and qualitative data. Understanding impact is difficult so there needs to be a place for both – numbers can never tell the full story but stories rarely count for enough on their own.

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About John Copps

John is part of NPC's research and consulting team and is the founder of NPC's Well-being Measure, a social business that provides an online tool to measure young people’s well-being. He has eight years experience of research and consulting, and is passionate about how data can be used to improve the performance of organisations. John is a regular contributor to NPC's blog and has also contributed to pieces for BBC Radio, the Guardian, and the Financial Times. John is a governor of a secondary school.
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