We work with Matter of Focus to help us evaluate the difference we make and see how we can improve. We spoke to Ailsa Cook, Co-Founder and Director of Matter of Focus.
Can you tell us a bit about Matter of Focus and the work you do? 

Matter of Focus is a purpose-led company and B Corp based in Edinburgh set up by myself and co-founder Sarah Morton in 2017. We support public and third sector organisations to understand, evaluate and track the difference they make.  

Sarah and my paths had crossed several times during our long and established careers in academia, where we had both kept one foot firmly planted in the real world of influencing policy and practice. We both really knew that organisations needed better tools to evaluate their own impact, tools that would empower them to learn in real time thereby deepening their understanding of their work, which is what’s required to really make the best difference possible. So that is what we set out to provide. 

Matter of Focus offers a practical and meaningful approach to understanding and evaluating change, along with expert support, and we have developed our own software OutNav to hold the approach and help organisations embed ongoing self-evaluation, learning and improvement. 

How have you worked with Future Pathways so far? 

We’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Future Pathways since 2018. They were aware of my expertise around evaluating personal outcomes and approached Matter of Focus when they were looking for support with their evaluation and research, which they knew was an important part of their work to build the evidence base for a new and pioneering service.  

Initially, we produced a scoping report to really understand the service; looking at the context in which Future Pathways was working, understanding how they make a difference and their progress towards that. This involved speaking to people that used the service as well as staff and other partners. Since then, we provided ongoing support and supervision for Future Pathways’ researcher as they were using OutNav to embed evaluation into their work. 

In 2020 we helped Future Pathways to produce their own impact evaluation, which was a substantial piece of work that mapped out how the service made a difference and brought together lots of feedback, data and evidence from across their work. 

Recently we’ve been working very closely with the Impact and Evaluation Lead to supplement the information they had available to evaluate the impact of Future Pathways. This included running focus groups and workshops and doing some additional analysis. We see ourselves as a learning partner for Future Pathways offering a bit of additional input at key points. 

We recently worked together to develop the Stepping Stones report. What can you tell us about the importance of collaboration when evaluating impact? 

We believe it’s important for organisations to own their own evaluation: that they are clear about what they need to know and what their data is telling them and, critically, that people in the organisation are really involved in making sense of that data because that’s what leads to meaningful and efficient learning and improvement. However, we recognise that evaluating complex relational services is incredibly challenging. We have been able to bring specific expertise, guidance and an approach to evaluating complex interventions. With Stepping Stones, we were also bringing objectivity: people could tell us things they might not tell Future Pathways directly and we can see the service with a bit of distance and fresh perspective. Coupling this external lens with Future Pathways ongoing self-evaluation over quite some time is really powerful 

What did we learn together about Future Pathways impact in Stepping Stones 

This evaluation has cemented understanding of how Future Pathways makes a difference. We can be confident that their genuinely trauma-informed and relational approach to care coordination works and makes a difference to people as, building on previous evaluations, the evidence is now clear 

Additionally, the Stepping Stones report has strengthened understanding about Future Pathways’ role within the wider system and the impact they have had by working closely with Delivery Partners to make sure they’re able to support people effectively. They really understand what they need to do next to shape the system.    

Future Pathwayscommitment to understanding the difference they make and their focus on embedding and sharing ongoing learning is inspirational and exemplary. We’re proud of our learning partnership. 

Our latest Quarterly Report is now available to view. It covers our work from January to March 2023. It shows what we’ve learnt, and includes key stats and feedback from those who access Future Pathways. 

This quarter:  

28 people started working with a Support Coordinator.  

More people heard about Future Pathways through word of mouth than from anywhere else.  

259 people accessed support from our delivery partners.

We worked with 70 active delivery partners. 

People told us they wanted to improve their mental health, their living environments and develop new skill.

People told us working with Future Pathways made a positive difference to their lives. For example, by giving them sense of pride in themselves or their achievements, and ways of coping.  

People told us where they heard about Future Pathways
Future Pathways linked people with a range of delivery partners this quarter 
People told us what they hoped to gain from working with our service
People told us about the most impactful support they accessed through Future Pathways 
Our full report features further infographics, feedback and a breakdown of our financial spend. Read the full report.
Rikki heard about Future Pathways in 2017, after contributing to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. He started working with a Support Coordinator called Lara.

Rikki had been struggling with his mental health and particularly with flashbacks. Lara put Rikki in contact with the Anchor, the Glasgow Psychological Trauma Service. Through the Anchor, Rikki accessed EMDR therapy. This is a type of therapy which can help people process trauma. Rikki found that this experience helped him to look at past experiences from his present perspective, as an adult. Together Rikki and Lara also explored how complimentary therapies, such as reiki and mindfulness techniques, could benefit his mental health. This helped Rikki find useful approaches to cope with flashbacks.

“I used to see one wee thing on the TV and I was back there in my mind. Now I have the techniques so that the flashbacks don’t stay with me.”

Volunteering has always been important to Rikki. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rikki volunteered to meet and greet people at his local hospital. After accessing support from Future Pathways, Rikki wanted to do something to support Future Pathways.

“You looked after me. You have got me to this stage. Now I want to give something back. I want to share what Future Pathways has done for me.”

Lara encouraged Rikki to get involved with Making Pathways Together. Through this project, people who have accessed support from Future Pathways gave us feedback to help us improve the service. Rikki also got involved in our survivors’ voice group, Voices for a Better Future. This group brings together people who are registered with Future Pathways with the aim of improving services for other survivors.

Currently, Rikki and other group members are working with Future Pathways to develop peer support within our service. Although at first Rikki felt hesitant to get involved in the group, being part of Voices for a Better Future has helped him feel more confident and helped Rikki move past feelings of shame and embarrassment that have affected his past relationships. 

“It has given me a lot of confidence. My life experiences are what I bring to the table.”

Being part of this group has also helped him develop relationships with people who also want to make a positive change.

“We became closer as a group. The respect is there. […] It is all about helping others […] We laugh together. Sometimes there’s a bit of emotion. People want to be heard. I can’t advise but I can sit there and listen.”

Overall, being involved with Voices for a Better Future has been a very fulfilling experience for Rikki. 

“Just being at the meetings, I know I am there for the right reason, to make people realise that they have a voice […] I feel passionate about Voices for a Better Future. There are a few tears, but we are doing it to better people’s lives.”