Impact Measurement and Guiding Principles

One objective of COP4HL was to develop open access resources for the impact measurement of local communities of practice. This led to the development of the COP4HL Guiding Principles.

What are Guiding Principles?

According to Patton (2018), a principle is ...
  1. Guiding: A principle is prescriptive. It provides advice and guidance on what to do, how to think, what to value, and how to act to be effective. It offers direction
  2. Useful: A high-quality principle is useful in making choices and decisions.
  3. Inspirational: Principles are value-based, incorporating and expressing ethical premises, which is what makes them meaningful.
  4. Developmental: This refers to a principle’s adaptability and applicability to diverse contexts and over time
  5. Evaluable: A high-quality principle must be evaluable. It must be possible to document and judge whether it is actually being followed, and document and judge what results from following the principle

Why are they important in Social Innovation?

Societal challenges are complex, systemic, interconnected, their outcomes cannot be predefined, and by default, they require insights from many perspectives. Initiatives that are innovative are often in a state of continuous development and adaptation, and they frequently unfold in a changing and unpredictable environment. Rather than sticking to a linear, predictable pathway, they adapt within and navigate the turbulence and uncertainties of complex system change by adhering to principles.  

Social Innovation in the context of COP4HL

COP4HL is a project aiming to improve the healthy lifestyle of people in local communities. The assumption is that classic project based knowledge-to-action approaches are largely ineffective and do not necessarily meet the needs and assets of the local community thus jeopardizing ownership and sustainability (Matheson ea, 2013; Kickbusch & Gleicher, 2014). In COP4HL, the aim is to learn and experiment with social innovation to improve healthy lifestyle in several local communities throughout Europe. This is a relatively new approach, often very different from conditioned approaches and the involved partners recognize that they need to learn how to do it. The ecosystems of stakeholders within the local communities are called the COP: Community of Practice’. Representatives of these local COP’s are then combining, elaborating and, when possible, generalizing the local  COP learnings. The formulation of a first set of Guiding Principles is one of the outputs. It can serve in the future to facilitate Social Innovations towards Healthy Lifestyle or possibly in other societal challenges. It also offers an instrument in the (developmental) evaluation.  

The 11 COP4HL Guiding Principles

The Guiding Principles identified in the COP4HL Knowledge Alliance were developed collectively on the basis of ‘lessons learned’ by the six COP4HL local communities of practices:
  1. Anticipate and act based on systems thinking and the complexity of the innovation context.
  2. Develop ownership of the innovation in all stakeholders
  3. Act evidence informed in the innovation process, building on needs and assets from the local individual to the wider society
  4. Create a learning climate that is save and critical facilitates experimenting
  5. Maximize alignment, collaboration and co-creation between stakeholders in all phases of the innovation
  6. Create a flexible support structure to develop agency, and to plan, manage and communicate the innovation
  7. Invest heavily in building relationships to grow a lasting and inclusive community
  8. Establish and embrace, with and for the community, an inspiring common long-term goal
  9. As a community, nurture your own shared identity and culture
  10. Ensure a diverse composition of the community in terms of background, domain, culture and role
  11. Embed developmental evaluation in the innovation to guide decisions and actions and to interpret impact
The question mark in the figure (see download section below) indicates that these principles are subjected to evaluation themselves and therefore, they are not a static set, but in fact they will change and develop in the future.

Assumptions regarding the Guiding Principles

  • They can be (partly) overlapping, or even contrasting (e.g. they can sometimes seem paradoxes).
  • It is likely you need all of these principles in order to achieve your goals.
  • They are distinguishable principles but should be seen in relation with each other.
  • Some may be more important in certain phases of the existence of the COP. For example, when a new COP is being created it is very important to focus on building relationships first.
  • They are not a static set of principles, but they will evolve as a result of applying them to and evaluating them in future situations and initiatives.

Summary of the process to develop the Guiding Principles

These Guiding Principles have been developed using the following steps:
  1. Using various methods, all COPs collected ‘lessons learned’
  2. In an international meeting, these were collected and discussed, and a first impression of themes was brainstormed
  3. The team members involved in work package 3 ‘analysed’ the list and clustered them into themes
  4. The list was complemented by extracts from the literature that were in line with the issues raised by the participants
  5. On the basis of the themes, the same team members then suggested 10 draft principles, using the guidance provided by Patton 2018#
  6. In a second international meeting (conducted remotely due to travel restrictions in relation to COVID), these drafts were discussed and changes in content or wording were suggested
  7. The team incorporated the feedback received and drafted the final set of principles (11)
  8. These 11 principles were then subjected to the ‘rules test’ * and the ‘alternative principles test’ **, which led to minor changes in wording of one principle
  9. Local COPs suggested contextualised examples

Intended future use of these principles: evaluation of these principles

In the future, these principles can guide further development of the existing networks as well as future ones. These principles are therefore, - by definition -, drafts until they have proven their use.

Further steps within this COP4HL project

As the local context is very important, the people in a local network use their local language, and words may carry different connotations in different cultures, we suggest that the principles are being translated to the languages of our local COPs. We will send further instructions for this, for the ones interested in doing this.
We will continue working on improving a contextualised example per principle. We will contact COPs at a later stage to help us finalise those.
(#) Principles-focused evaluation: the GUIDE. Michel Quinn Patton, The Guilford Press, 2018. (*) The difference between a rule and a principle is clarified by the following. A rule prescribes precisely. You must do this specifically and precisely (using a cooking recipe analogy: ‘use two tablespoons of salt’). Principles must be interpreted and adapted to content (‘season to taste’). The test is done by stating a rule that pertains to but contrasts with the principle. (**) The alternative principles test is meant to test whether a principle provides distinct and meaningful guidance by conceptualizing the opposite or a specific alternative. Both tests were applied by three team members individually. After discussing the results of those tests, all principles were scored ‘fail’ or ‘pass’ (‘fail’: further change is needed; ‘pass’: the principle is fine as it is).

please stay tuned for updates.