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Case Study:

A story of social impact through School Ground Sounds

What started almost a decade ago as a maths teacher’s film project in Elmgreen School (West Norwood, Lambeth) today is a suite of youth intervention programmes leveraging the power of music to transform young lives.

Published: 16 January 2023
5 minute read

School Ground Sounds, now a registered charity, has connected over 800 young people to opportunities in the music industry. Its work has built their confidence and preparedness whilst platforming emerging talent.

Impact is a Story, not a Statistic

Social impact measurement is here to stay in the charity sector. Funders regularly ask for evidence of impact to ensure their investment will make a difference; trustees attempt to quantify it in annual reports; and staff wrestle with inputs, outputs, outcomes and impacts as cornerstones of programme design. Yet monitoring and evaluation can be difficult, especially where transformation can’t be neatly distilled into a statistic. Over the years, School Ground Sounds has realised that traditional modes of impact measurement must be contextualised with real stories—and viewed as a process, not a task-and-finish piece.

How do School Ground Sounds communicate impact?

Anthony Olanipekun, Chief Executive of SGS, pairs programme assessment with self-reflection so students can speak about their own journeys. SGS run a variety of afterschool programmes for youth aged 11 to 16 and provide arts development and employment support to under 25s. As part of every course, staff administer pre- and post- assessments to gauge confidence, musical skill, willingness to collaborate and other outcomes. In addition to these Likert-based questionnaires, SGS present probing questions to draw out the benefits that run deeper than any quantitative data could capture.

One question they’ve found particularly effective simply prompts, ‘Tell us your story’, and asks students how they’d summarise the programme’s impact in their own words. Over the years, these stories have included over 150 young artists giving live performances and being connected to big names in the music industry. Their webpage feature, “Paul’s Story”, even tells how one participant got to shadow Fabio, George Ezra’s drummer. It is no surprise, given SGS’s level of investment in youth, that its network now boasts Youth Music Award members, a five-piece band, and countless other regularly performing artists.

With recent funding, SGS have been able to access Views, an online application that collects and presents impact data in one place. Through Views, SGS organise assessments by programme and follow individual journeys. Many students connect with the organisation in their school years and move into more advanced programming as they develop. Staff can now see not only how youth perceive (and benefit from) a particular programme at one point in time, but how their skills grow as they stay engaged in SGS activities.