Those of us pursuing a social purpose, are facing more pressure to not only create positive change in the world, but also to prove it. And the only way to really prove the amount of social good you are creating, is to measure it; but why is it so important?
Social impact can be defined as creating change that is in society’s best interests; Social Impact Measurement (SIM) is a system, tool or framework that evaluates if an intervention is creating positive social impact, and helps to understand how much benefit has been created. This is important because often we find ourselves struggling to prove we have made the correct programming decision, or used funding in the most effective way. Being able to quantify Social Impact can help provide data to make these decisions easier.
Here are five reasons why Social Impact Measurement (SIM) is a priority.
Achieve your Mission
As social purpose organisations, each day we work towards fulfilling our organisation’s mission; whether that be to eliminate poverty, or to improve learning outcomes and life opportunities for young people. To determine how you will achieve your desired change you must first look at the relationship between your activities, outputs, outcomes and impact; this is known as your Theory of Change (ToC). Your ToC underpins your evaluation, and needs to be both realistic and measurable. Having a solid theory as to how your activities create change will help you to understand what indicators it is important to measure. Using measurable outcomes and collecting data that confirms the impact of your interventions, helps to not only prove your social impact, but holds you and your staff accountable, ensuring you are working towards your stated purpose.
Attract additional funding
Due to the recent rise in socially conscious investors who are keen to support initiatives that create positive impact through products such as Social Impact Bonds, and Governments wanting to ensure real outcomes are achieved through the commissioning of services, social impact measurement has become a high priority. Funders are putting organisations under increasing pressure to demonstrate that their programs produce positive social and/or environmental change, as well as provide good value for money; and in the case of Investors, ideally a financial return on their investment. In addition to being able to articulate exactly how you would use potential funds, being able to forecast the value of the social impact you would potentially create with their investment, can make the difference between securing funding or missing out on delivering your program. Having a Social Impact Measurement framework in place, that can not only measure the social impact created by your organisation, but also project the potential social impact you could create, will allow you to stand out from the crowd during a competitive funding process.
Effectively Communicate the Impact of your work
Often our programs allow us to be in contact with our beneficiaries, so we can see the change that our services create. However, communicating such changes is much more difficult. The stories are important, as they help stakeholders understand the differences that have happened in the lives of real people. But being able to quantify social impact, in terms all stakeholders can understand and relate to, is essential to maintain and grow supportive partnerships. A good SIM framework will create a holistic narrative that uses data from your programs to communicate social change in a language that is understandable and engaging to all your stakeholders. By being able to include the value of your social impact in dollars, ensures that the most important work that your organisation is doing is actually included on the balance sheet, being both counted and valued in decision making.
Use Impact to inform program improvement
Applying a SIM framework with measurable outcomes allows an organisation to review if your interventions are having the impact you expected, or if you need to re-design your programs in order to achieve the positive outcomes you were aiming for. An impact measurement framework will give your organisation the evidence to Try, Test and Learn, so you can continuously work towards program improvement.
Demonstrate value for money
By incorporating a robust SIM tool, you are able to value your impact and compare this to the cost of delivering your programs. This helps demonstrate that you are spending resources on programs that provide good value for money. It will also provide information to help inform decisions about where your money can do the most good instead of having to rely solely on “gut feelings”.
Social Impact Measurement is here to stay
Social Impact Measurement can help you and your stakeholders understand and strengthen your organisations social impact. By implementing a SIM framework your organisation will be more attractive to investors, be able to demonstrate that funds are being spent where they will create social impact, and effectively communicate how much impact your interventions are having in the lives of the people you are working with.
As SIM is being adopted across the social purpose sector, it is no longer an option, but a priority.