Book News: March 3rd, 2009

A National Audit Office report has concluded that two programmes aimed at building capacity in the third sector have had a positive impact on frontline third sector organisations but have not yet demonstrated value for money. Both have suffered from administrative weaknesses and a lack of initial targets against which the effectiveness of the programmes could be measured. The ChangeUp and Futurebuilders programmes were launched in 2004.

ChangeUp has created stronger partnerships among those organisations that support frontline third sector bodies. While the impact varies, better support has helped some frontline organisations to work more efficiently, spending less time on administration, manage staff and volunteers more effectively, and improve the service to their users. Doubts remain, however, about the sustainability of some of the support services the programme has stimulated.

Weaknesses in programme management include delays in implementing ChangeUp that created a rush to spend public money quickly, with some being wasted. As an untested approach to capacity building, outcome measures should have been set to evaluate the success of ChangeUp. But no targets for outcomes were established and no effective evaluation of the impact of the programme has taken place.

Futurebuilders has brought about positive change, enabling organisations to improve governance, strategies and premises and this in turn has helped some recipients of Futurebuilders loans to win contracts to deliver public services. But this experimental programme also encountered early difficulties.

The report is available from the NAO.