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Build and communicate evidence of impact: Independent News Forum series (3/5)

In the third of a series of posts on ideas coming out of the Independent News Forum, Joe Mitchell writes up the notes on a project to build and communicate evidence of the impact of independent news providers.

Last month, PINF and partners hosted the Independent News Forum. Out of that gathering of news providers and supporting organisations came several ideas for collaborative projects to benefit the independent news sector.

This blogpost describes the work of the group that developed ideas around a collective effort to build and communicate evidence of the social impact of the independent news sector. This description is PINF’s best understanding of the group’s discussion – not necessarily PINF’s view. And there’s more that can be done to develop this idea: if you’re interested, sign up to join the videocall via the link at the end of this post.

Understanding impact

The group discussed a range of things that need to happen to better understand impact, starting with mapping the kinds of impact it is possible to have – or where that impact might occur. For example, there might be impact on the news industry or there might be impact on people and communities via policy or behaviour change. There might be individual, organisational or societal impact.

Specific areas that might see the impact of news publishers were around trust, community cohesion, community pride, identity or holding power to account. Impact might occur over the short- or long-term.

The group noted a desire to find the right things to measure, find objective feedback, and do so fairly.

Measuring impact

To start measuring impact, the sector needs to develop theories of change to show the process for getting to the impact. It needs to establish how to track and measure impact.

The group discussed certain tools that could be used for gathering evidence, as well as types of evidence: community surveys, online response tracking, anecdotes or testimonies. It was noted that outreach is not necessarily evidence of impact.

The group felt a need for capacity building within the sector to help organisations start to measure impact or to improve the ways they do so currently. That capacity could be understood as expertise and as tools or instruments that could be shared across the sector.

As well as considering the theory and measures of impact, the group discussed the question of who this evidence of impact is for. What’s the impact of proving impact? They suggested that funders, audiences, advertisers, politicians and other partners would be interested – with funders as the most important audience, in order to keep the work going. The evidence collected could also be particularly useful for policy discussions and providing evidence for making a case to a politician or parties before an election.

Next steps

The group discussed the idea of running a pilot or case study of impact among the independent news publishers, as well as making use of evidence already collected.

They thought there was a need for more conversations like the forum – as well as the time to participate in them. They also considered the value of an ‘impact awards’ to help document and share knowledge on impact. The tools for gathering evidence were also discussed, as well as ‘impact crib sheets’ and a potential consultancy offer to publishers.

The group concluded that PINF could play a helpful role to get things started, while noting that further thought should be given to the ideal partners on this work given the need for objectivity/independence – perhaps a university partner would be ideal.

Interested in continuing the conversation? Want to help build and communicate evidence of impact? Join a videocall to discuss some of the next steps on Tuesday, 24 January 2023 at 10am. Sign up here! You can leave comments on this shared document before the call.

Watch out for the rest of the series of blogposts – follow @PINewsF on Twitter for updates, or sign up to PINF’s mailing list here.


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