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What is the most important aspect of social impact measurement?

Posted by Marlon van Dijk on 22 July 2015


Although many organizations are trying to capture social value behind their desk, we believe that “value is in the eye of the stakeholder, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. This statement underlines the importance of involving your stakeholders before and during your social impact measurement.

Identifying and involving your stakeholders is one of the most important steps in your analysis. Stakeholders are defined as people or organisations that affect or are affected by your activities. In order to truly understand the kind of value you create (or destroy), you need to recognize what changes for your stakeholders and how important these changes are to them. 

Identifying outcomes is not a straightforward process. Make sure to spend sufficient time to map the intended or unintended outcomes that you expect. Also check with your stakeholders to ensure that you are measuring the right things. You can use Social Return of Investment (SROI) in this process: it helps you involve your stakeholders, understand what changes, and value what matters.

Let’s take a closer look at the stakeholders in the SROI analysis of a programme called ‘A Balanced Family’. This is a national programme that offers various courses to ex-convict mums during or after their imprisonment. The objective is to improve the mothers’ relationships with their children and to help them function independently in society after their release.

During the one-year course, ‘A Balanced Family’ has supported 128 mothers and their children (246). The programme offers ex-convict mums support in the following areas:

  • Rebuilding relationships with their children,
  • Finding work and income,
  • Preparing for difficult conversations with authorities,
  • Dealing with emotional problems, and
  • Handling financial problems.

Based on interviews and a survey, the following stakeholders were included in the analysis: ex-convict mums, their children, volunteers, local councils, Department for Youth Care, and the Ministry of Justice.

Let’s focus on one particular stakeholder, the ex-convict mums, in order to understand the type of changes that take place. All mums experience problems in multiple areas of life, which they often find difficult to tackle themselves. By receiving support in handling financial issues, (organizing the administration and creating insight into debt), these mums can regain control over their financial situation and find the right help, which leads to reduced debts.

Survey results also reveals that the these mums feel less socially isolated because of the programme, and that they value this outcome as most important. This demonstrates the importance of involving stakeholders: it reveals what truly matters to them, which may differ from your initial expectations of social value creation by the programme. As you can see, “value is indeed in the eye of the stakeholder, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

Want to learn more about the principles and the process of SROI? Download our step-by-step guide which will take you through the various steps of the SROI analysis and offer advice on every aspect you need to take into account.

> Step by step guide to SROI


Topics: Impact measurement, Value, Stakeholders, Social Return on Investment

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