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Improving social outcomes for public services

Last year Arts Council England published the final reports from our work on Envisioning the library of the future which we carried out with Ipsos MORI. Our work sought to understand the challenges libraries will face over the coming decade. There are many, but the one which stands out is that many of our public libraries are struggling to articulate their social objectives (although a few do it brilliantly). We see this as a serious risk for them today, and believe it will become an even bigger one in the coming years.

In the past few months we have been working with a small number of library services to clarify specific social outcomes they are seeing to achieve, and to help them increase the impact their services have in ways they can demonstrate. Through staff workshops, informed by analysis of their services, we have worked with library staff to harden up the links between their objectives, their actions, and management information. We helped staff in one library service devise specific measures to test whether they really are meeting their goal of “connecting people with opportunities”. One area of impact they focused on is their services for jobseekers. One specific impact measure is the number of job applications made by jobseekers who attend their work clubs and CV workshops. They can now show that the typical jobseeker joining their work club has probably been applying on average for 0.5 jobs per week, but after three weeks of structured support the same jobseeker is typically making more than 10 applications per week (a twenty fold increase).

This process of defining social objectives more precisely, designing impact measures which provide real-time management information, and finally testing out different approaches to increase impact is one of the best ways we can think of to put into practice the findings of our work on libraries of the future. We have also seen how it can inspire and empower library managers and frontline staff to experiment with new approaches and quickly see the impact they are making, as well as seeing how they are creating compelling evidence to illustrate the role of their service to the public, politicians and others.

If you want to hear more about our findings from the Envisioning project, or our work with individual library services do please call us on 020 7756 7600 or email.

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