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Impact and Learning Manager - DFN Project SEARCH

DFN Project Search
Flexible with some travel to London
£35,000 - £42,000 depending on experience
Closing date
9 Nov 2020
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Role Description

Job Title: Impact and Learning Manager

Salary: £35,000 - £42,000

Location: Flexible, with some travel into London

Work pattern: Full-time permanent contract. (Open to discussing flexible and part time working) some evening and weekend working will be required.

Benefits: 25 days holiday (plus bank holidays), pension and company mobile phone and laptop

Reporting to: Claire Cookson, CEO

We are looking for an Impact and Learning Manager to lead the development and performance of our impact and evaluation model. Currently we have the largest data set in the country for supported internships and a comprehensive system to collect it. The successful candidate will take responsibility for the management of our data processing and insights generation as well as influencing the development of our delivery model.

The ideal candidate will be able to mix technical and strategic aspects of data analysis and programme design, and must possess the high levels of energy, integrity and creativity that this exciting role demands. Reporting initially to the Chief Executive Officer, the Learning and Impact Manager will provide leadership and oversight as follows:

  • Lead and be responsible for the smooth running of our data collection, processing, and analysis across all of our projects.
  • Lead on design of data sharing, annual Impact Report, and research / briefing papers for internal and external stakeholders.
  • Be responsible for keeping the team up to date with latest research to ensure we continue to evaluate outcomes against most recent findings.
  • Be responsible for working with our partners to ensure that the Membership Portal is up to date and that data capture is accurate and timely.
  • Work with the Team who lead on the development of the Membership Portal in the United States to ensure that the interests of DFN Project SEARCH team are met
  • Lead and be responsible for our annual stakeholder feedback evaluation.
  • Lead a culture of impact focus and learning across DFN Project SEARCH.
  • Document and share internal knowledge so that all team members are reporting on the same data.
  • Lead on data analysis and reporting relating to any grants / donations / commissioned work.

Programme Design and Model Refinement:

  • Document DFN Project SEARCH and DFN MoveForward’s overall impact model as well as our theory of change. Using this you will influence and advise how delivery resources and training materials are updated, working closely with the Programme Specialists and onsite teams to ensure the resources reflect lessons learned from our data.  
  • Lead annual reviews which seek to improve core aspects of the model.
  • Conduct environmental scanning to find employment and training initiatives that will benefit interns, graduates and potential interns across the UK and Iberia and provide briefings to share with the wider team

Data and Systems Management:

  • Ensure smooth running of technical aspects of data and systems through effective communication with UK and US Team.
  • Ensure visualisations and dashboards of data are high quality, timely and received well by all our different stakeholders. Regularly update data displayed on our website and App.


  • Produce internal and external reports such that Commissioners, Funders, Educators, Local Authorities, Supported Employment Providers, Host Businesses, internal teams and Board of Trustees reporting requirements are met.
  • Work with the Communications Team to share our impact and our learning internally and externally in a compelling way.
  • Develop a clear understanding of financial, social and economic impact on our programmes.

Programme Performance Management:

  • Lead design of performance management metrics and processes for assessing site performance and tracking progress in line with the models Critical Success Factors. 
  • Review core performance management metrics to analyse overall programme performance and progress against business plan projections.
  • Actively work to ensure all activities incorporate a focus on and promotion of equality and valuing diversity, including collecting and analysis of appropriate monitoring data.
  • Ensure the Programme Specialist team are equipped to use insights from performance analysis to make ongoing improvements to delivery in year.
  • Lead on our charity’s approach to recognising and promoting evidence-informed teaching across the sector and within our programmes.

Performance Evaluation:

  • Lead on our annual evaluation ensuring analysis and evaluation requirements and timescales are met, and learnings are used throughout to improve the programme(s).
  • Offer analytical expertise across the organisation, especially across research and innovation, to ensure that the charity takes robust, evidence-based decisions.

Leadership and Management:

  • Develop impact partnership opportunities with other organisations that share our strategic aspirations.
  • Represent the organisation internally and externally and promote and represent the impact and profile of the organisation.
  • Responsible for preparing the annual Impact Report and the annual activities to deliver the strategy in line with budgets.
  • Ensure strong communication within the team and across the organisation.
  • Work closely with the Director of Development to deliver marketing, communications and reporting plans.
  • Build and sustain networks and relationships with key figures and organisations who focus on evidence-informed teaching practice and impact in relation to supporting learners with SEND transitioning into employment.
  • Liaise and work with sector representatives, government officials and relevant partners on impact focused projects.

Code of Conduct / Professional Responsibilities:

  • Avoid any action or behaviour which may conflict in any way with the work and services provided by DFN Project SEARCH or which may bring the charity into disrepute.
  • Act in accordance with the charity’s current and future policies, procedures, guidelines, and relevant codes of practice, which aim to ensure the highest possible standards of professionalism.
  • To develop and maintain the range of skills appropriate to the post and to keep up to date with good practice, publications and issues relating to your area of work or the charity as a whole.
  • To maintain, sensitive and confidential information securely, in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998; to contribute to the collation of information for statistical, monitoring and evaluation purposes.
  • To develop and maintain appropriate boundaries of confidentiality in relation to employees, Associates, and any other person(s) that may be concerned with the charity’s business.
  • To participate as an employee of DFN Project SEARCH, by being available for staff and other meetings as required.



Person Specification:


  • Graduate or equivalent
  • Experience in a senior role in impact, evaluation, data/systems, frontline delivery management or similar role in a public or third sector setting
  • Experience in applying and communicating evidence from research and practice to develop strategy.
  • Research literate – has a good level of understanding regarding disability employment
  • Passionate about making a difference to the lives of young people across the UK and contributing meaningfully to changes in policy and practice.
  • Changing the perceptions of young people with learning disabilities and autism in the workplace
  • Flexible and adaptable to changing landscape and evolving organisation
  • IT and systems competence for overseeing operation and maintenance of data system
  • Able to prioritise time and use initiative to manage workload under pressure
  • Strong influencing and stakeholder engagement skills.
  • Strong and confident communicator – in writing, face to face and in larger groups; able to adapt style for a range of different audiences


  • Experience of working in small, high growth, fast paced organisations
  • A strong understanding of current issues in education and local authority policy and practice
  • Experience leading and commissioning research
  • Broad understanding of the not-for-profit sector.

Why apply? 

Employing people with special educational needs and disabilities is not just a matter of doing an honourable thing. With many sectors struggling with a skills gap, it makes simple business sense to explore this ocean of untapped potential.

Everyone deserves the right to aspire to the very best future – yet nationally only 5.9 % of people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) go on to secure full-time paid employment. There is now a pressing need for change and intervention to ultimately improve the life outcomes of young people with learning difficulties and autism.

At DFN Project SEARCH we work hard to challenge and change cultures, demonstrating how young people with learning difficulties can enrich the workforce, bring incredible skills and talent, encourage greater diversity and meet a real business need.

Our vision and ambitions are simple; to eradicate the postcode lottery and ensure that everyone with an Education, Health and Care Plan has the opportunity to access high-quality transition to work support and training in their local area.

Our business partners often tell us that working with us can dramatically improve performance and retention, whilst also improving skill level across their business. Further benefits include enhanced local, regional, national and international engagement and recognition through partnering with this unique programme.

We really believe that the valuable work we are doing at DFN Project SEARCH is having a positive impact on society. It is widely agreed that employment improves health and wellbeing. Transitioning people from education straight into competitive employment saves money for health and social care by around £2 million per person. Our graduates become net contributors rather than recipients of adult social care and health services.

We are on the journey to achieving social justice for people who have been frequently marginalised from the world of work; communities are becoming more inclusive and people with learning disabilities more visible. We still have a big job ahead of us though and we need an exceptional team to tackle it. We now need diverse and adaptable people with a positive can-do attitude to help us address the root causes of low levels of disability employment.

The young people we aim to serve – and the challenges they face - are all unique. We are looking to build a team that reflects this diversity. Our commitment to inclusion across disability, race, gender, age, class, religion, identity, and experience forms the cornerstone of our work.

If you are driven by a desire to help young people improve their life chances and are willing to go the extra mile every day to achieve our aims, we want to hear from you. In return we can offer you a supportive working environment, the reward of working to support an incredible talent pool of young people, and the opportunity to play a transformational role in the labour market for young people at a critical moment in time.

Who are we? 

DFN Project SEARCH is an international transition to work programme, committed to transforming the lives of young people with learning disabilities and autism. The programme started in 1996 and today Project SEARCH has over 500 licensed programmes spanning 47 US states, 9 countries and in multiple public and private sector industries.

DFN Project SEARCH holds the Master Franchise Agreement for Project SEARCH programmes in the UK, Ireland and Iberia and our unique programmes include those that have been established in England, Ireland, Portugal, Scotland and Wales in various prestigious employers such as Hospitals, Local Authorities, Universities, Laboratories and a variety of Private Sector Businesses. In 2017 over 61 % of our European Graduates moved into paid employment of more than 16 hours per week compared to the UK average of just 6% for people with learning disabilities and autism in employment of any kind.

DFN Project SEARCH is delivering transformative change, supporting, and helping young people with learning disabilities and autism into the world of work. Nationally only 5.9% of people with special educational needs and disabilities gain permanent paid employment in the UK yet 70 percent of DFN Project SEARCH graduates gain jobs, 60 percent of them achieving full-time permanent roles.

The DFN Project SEARCH offer:

  • A pathway that can lead to sustainable paid employment for people with an Education health and care plan (EHCP)
  • Full-time supported internship at a host business - 800 hours of marketable skills acquisition
  • A focused employability curriculum delivered from the workplace
  • Ground breaking opportunities to learn with prestigious employer partners
  • Combination of tutors and trained job coach support

A Team of Teams:

We believe that a collaborative approach between businesses, local authorities, colleges and schools and supported employment providers; partnered with our evidenced-based DFN Project SEARCH supported internship programme, can be a force for transformative change in the lives of thousands of young people with learning disabilities and autism. Learners with an EHCP remain on roll at their school or college but are based full-time with a host business. They are supported through three 10-week rotations across the host business whist also studying for an employability qualification.

Our Origins

The DFN Foundation was established by city financier David Forbes-Nixon who has a son with learning disabilities. He became aware of the lack of effective provision to meet his son’s needs and that of other young people like him and was determined to try and make a positive difference. He initially launched the DFN Foundation to create significantly improved provision at Stepping Stones School in Surrey. However, his research into best practice led him to discover the appalling lack of employment opportunities for young people with special needs. With the full support of the board, David committed the DFN Foundation to developing and sharing best practice to positively improve the problem of employability training for young adults with special needs.

The DFN Foundation carefully invests in programmes and projects which deliver clear, measurable outcomes that create positive change. Ultimately, we work through partnerships, enabling and supporting others to make a real difference. Two significant investments have been in DFN MoveForward in collaboration with ThinkForward and DFN Project SEARCH.

Project SEARCH was established in 1996 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to help young people with learning disabilities obtain paid employment. Today the US programme is the biggest of its kind with over 600 sites across the globe. After spending a year researching best practice, the DFN Foundation concluded that Project SEARCH was the most effective supported internship programme in the world and became its partner when they secured the master franchise agreement for DFN Project SEARCH in 2018. DFN Project SEARCH now has 69 sites across the UK, Ireland, and Iberia.

In 2019 DFN Project SEARCH became a registered charity and is now independent of DFN Foundation. We have a highly driven Board of Trustees, an ambitious business plan and audacious targets for growth. As initial investors, we also have the full support and backing of the DFN Foundation Trustees who are committed to supporting DFN Project SEARCH to reach financial independence.

Application timeline:

Application deadline: 10:00 (UK) Monday 9th November 2020

First round interviews: Week beginning 16th November 2020

Second round interviews: Week beginning 23rd November 2020

For questions please contact

Please see our website:

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