Maesuring social value - more and more possilities
One of the most important factors for social economy entities which are seeking growth is clear and objective proof of their effectiveness and achievements. They should be able to demonstrate that they meet their goals, and that their strategy and theory of change works. In order to achieve this goal they need tools that allow them to explain how they spent their money and bring positive outcomes with every single euro or dollar. That is the only way to attract new investors and get new contracts.
It is also the only way to improve any weak points and become better and more efficient along the way. Thanks to an effective measurement system those looking for a solution might choose the most efficient, productive, and sustainable social enterprises or ngos.
There are various types of evaluation that can be applied to social enterprises or not for profit organisations which are trying to be economicaly independent and sustainable. Some of them are mentioned in a booklet titled “Evaluation: Some Tools, Methods & Approaches” released by the Social Impact, a global social enterprise. SI is dedicated to helping international agencies, and the organizations and governments of civil societies become more effective when it comes to achieving positive social and economic change. The booklet was prepared for the U.S. Department of Washington DC, and describes its purpose as follows: “[The booklet is designed] to present some of the most useful and promising evaluation tools and methods to facilitate planning, managing and using evaluations.”
Among the approaches referred to are: performance/ process evaluations; summative/ex-post evaluations; impact evaluations; global/ regional programme evaluations; and experience reviews and special evaluation studies.
In the booklet you can also find an explanation of impact evaluation: “Impact evaluations (…) refer to those evaluations which use control groups to measure the precise impacts of an effort. In such evaluations, two groups – treatment and control – are established at the launch of an effort. The treatment group receives the services and goods from the effort in terms of technical assistance, training, advice and/or financial support from the effort while the control group does not. The overall impact of the effort is measured by comparing the performance, conditions or status of the two groups.”
Nonetheless every evaluation system designed or adjusted for a particular company organization is different. To create and plan such a system its authors should have an insight into the various qualities and factors characteristic of the enterprise they deal with. Therefore an important catalyst of the creation process is a supportive network.
The largest social value network
The largest international social value network in the world is called Social Value International (SVI), which has more than 900 individual and organisational members across 49 countries. The main goal of the SVI is to promote accounting for value. The network represents social economy entities and individuals working to understand, account for, measure, analyze or manage the wider value created by social enterprises of any kind. SVI was formed in September 2014 in the UK from two important organisations that had already been working for several years in the field: the SROI Network and the Social Impact Analysts Association (SIAA). As a consequence of the transformation the SROI Network in the UK is becoming Social Value UK and the SIAA is becoming Social Value International. The transition process will be completed in July 2015. Both organizations are led by their members and offer training, accreditation and assurance on impact measurement, SROI practitioner training and accreditation, and deliver webinars, events and conferences.
The Social Impact Analysts Association (SIAA) is an international professional body for social impact analysts. SIAA has six Country Impact Groups in Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Estonia, Hungary and Portugal at various stages of development. For further information, see www.siaassociation.org.
Social Return on Investment (SROI) is a framework for measuring and accounting for the value created or destroyed by our activities – where the concept of value is much broader than that which can be captured by market prices. SROI seeks to reduce inequality and environmental degradation and improve wellbeing by taking account of this broader value.
See www.thesroinetwork.org for more information.
The SROI Network currently has six constituted national networks and numerous other networks under development across the world. The six national networks are: The Social Impact Measurement Network of Australia (SIMNA), SROI Canada, The Hong Kong Institute of Social Impact Analysts (HKISIA), SROI Japan, SROI Netwerk Nederland en Vlaanderen, Svenska SROI-nätverket. Everyone who wants to know more about the Social Return on Investment is offered an introduction to SROI in three online sessions. The total cost is £125.00 and registration is possible here.
Principles developed by The SROI Network to guide the development of the SROI methodology are as follows:
- Involve stakeholders;
- Understand change;
- Only include what is material;
- Value what matters;
- Do not over claim;
- Be transparent;
- Verify the result.
In applying the principles a broad range of different techniques, tools and methods may be relevant. For organizations that want to be more accountable SROI offers a Practitioner Training course to learn how to measure and manage your social value. It is delivered by SROI Accredited Practitioners.
150 different tools and resources for assessing social impact
A valuable source of information when it comes to assessing social impact of social enterprises or philanthropic organizations is provided by the data base of TRASI – Tools and Resources for Assessing Social Impact. The data base was prepared by the Foundation Centre, an organization established in 1956 that aims to be a source of information about philanthropy worldwide. It presents over 150 tools, methods, and best practices sorted by name, sponsor, or approach type.
One of them is the Ashoka Measuring Effectiveness Questionnaire, designed in 1997. It is an annual self-response survey that is supposed to track the progress of cohorts of Ashoka Fellows over time, and is distributed among groups of social entrepreneurs at the five- and ten-year anniversary of their Ashoka fellowship.
The survey employs a group of proxy indicators which track data that can be aggregated across divergent fields of work, such as the frequency with which the fellows' work has been replicated by other organizations and level of influence the fellow has had on public policy. This report synthesizes data from the first six years of Ashoka’s Measuring Effectiveness project.
Another report from 2013, titled “How do you know when you’ve revolutionized industry. Ashoka’s Approach to Assessing Impact” analyses 5 different “paths” of changing social system that were followed by Ashoka’s fellows and gives concrete examples of social enterprises and their outcomes:
- Market dynamics and value chains;
- Public policy and industry norms;
- Full inclusion and empathy;
- Business-Social Congruence;
- Culture of change making.
At TRASI you can also find a “Guide to actionable measurement” by Gates Foundation. Foundation’s system is based on three principles:
1) Measurement should inform specific decisions and/or actions;
2) Do not measure everything, but do strive to measure what matters most;
3) The data help us learn and adapt our initiatives and strategies.
Why are these principles so important that they become a base for the whole system?
They mirror some important facts on impact evaluation:
1) You can measure what’s measurable – there are many factors that can be positive but it is extremely difficult to measure them.
2) While assessing your effectiveness it is good to know the objectives and priorities. Although some things might go wrong, the point is to get the most important thing done correctly.
3) The outcomes, even if they are negative should serve basically to improve your performance and apply some necessary changes not to close the company or give up on the mission. In the end you learn most from your mistakes.
Paulina Wajszczak for socialeconomy.pl