NPC (New Philanthropy Capital) is a UK-based nonprofit whose mission is to help nonprofits and those that fund them to maximise their impact for the people they exist to serve. We work with individual nonprofits and funders to help them develop their strategies, learn and improve as individual organisations, and over our 20 year history we’ve worked with hundreds of organisations. But the impact we can have by working on the infrastructure that supports (or should support!) all nonprofits is greater still than that we have by working with organisations one-to-one.
One of the most ubiquitous challenges we’ve found throughout NPC’s history is signposting and referrals. In all our work to highlight effective nonprofits, we’ve found that a lack of infrastructure and standards around referrals mean that organisations can’t maximise their impact. Great nonprofits don’t necessarily get the referrals they should. People who want and need support don’t necessarily find the organisations and programmes that would work for them. In a sector that has very scarce resources, failing to crack the referrals challenge leaves huge potential on the table.
So NPC has been excited to work on the challenge of signposting and referrals over the last 7 years. First, we worked collaboratively with a group of youth nonprofits to develop a service directory prototype platform for young people called My Best Life. We built the service from the ground up – populating the directory with service data manually and laboriously, as there simply weren’t feeds available of information about local services in the area of London we focused on in the prototype. And because we wanted to work towards a standardised infrastructure for the future, we provided an Open Referral compliant feed of our data.
Today, NPC’s work has moved on from prototyping a product (now being taken to market by tech for good company Mind Of My Own) to exploring the infrastructure needed to support directories like My Best Life, and youth nonprofits as a whole. Working with the public benefit programme of UK domain name registrar Nominet – an organisation that knows the importance of digital infrastructure – NPC has led a collaborative programme of work called Signpost+. The first phase of the programme focused on research and discovery – identifying organisations who were contributing to the (fledgling) signposting and referrals infrastructure for young people, and working with them to envisage the future infrastructure of the youth sector.
This work culminated in the publication of a report called How might we improve signposting for young people? which set out our recommendations for the future. Continue reading