OPINION: Thinkpiece - If information is goldust, we should be rich

One of the comments I hear constantly from funders is that we are all sitting on goldmines of information and, therefore, knowledge. In the Community Fund's case we have now funded 55,000 projects to the tune of over £2.5bn since we began in 1994. In each case, the organisation we funded set out to meet a need, and, very often, the organisation was pioneering a new approach to meeting that need.

The same is true of the projects supported by thousands of other funders, albeit on a smaller scale. This should mean we are each accumulating an ever-increasing body of knowledge about which projects have worked best.

So why is it that most of us are still sitting on our goldmines rather than prospecting them?

I believe there are three main reasons. Firstly, most funders don't really see it as part of their role. Their prime concern is to provide grants and ensure they are spent properly; they do not see it as part of their remit to learn about what works.

Secondly, even where funders do see it as part of their role, they will often not have the capacity to fulfil it. 'Knowledge management' takes time and resources.

Thirdly, and fundamentally, most funders do not have a framework for learning - funders need to develop a clear understanding of the intended outcomes of funding.

The Community Fund has taken this vital step by developing an outcomes classification framework. These outcomes are specified by the organisations we have been supporting.

For the first time , we have a framework for learning, ensuring that over time our funds will have greater impact. We will be able to share the knowledge of what works, and help others to deliver better outcomes.

In other words, we will be getting more for your money. Richard Gutch is director for England and strategic programmes at the Community Fund

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