Tuesday 3 November 2009

Measuring Social Impact?

Everyone wants to measure the social as well as the economic impact of third sector organisations. And so there are some 70 different impact measurement tools around.

One of the aims of the Adventure Capital Fund from the start of its pioneering work in making loans to community organisations was to try and measure the social impact of the work we invested in. The idea was that a loan would be repaid in both money and in impact: moving away from negative connotations about grants into a demonstrable social return that the community gains.

We have used the social return on investment model (SROI as it is known) but it has not been hugely successful. So I was particularly interested in the work that Heidelberg have done on this.

ACEVO and the Social investment Business laid on a seminar yesterday to hear from Dr Volker of the Centre for Social Innovation at Heidelberg University. He talked about their major study on impact just completed.

They have undertaken a major study of the impact of four large non-profit organisations who had established major housing and care developments. It lasted two years and cost 250k eu. It is probably one of the most extensive such impact studies done to date and certainly bigger than anything attempted here.

The results were fascinating. They showed that the impact was that there was a significant cost reduction in care by the non-profits but at the same time health outcomes improved and social cohesion was strengthened. They estimated a between 30-50% cost reduction and on their social cohesion measure there was. 51% "neighbourhood contribution" by these developments as compared with 36% in the control group.

The really interesting point to make is that these are figures excluding any volunteer contribution. In other words they did not include any "free" contribution by volunteers. This is dramatic evidence of what we argue on ACEVO that third sector delivery of health care can both be more cost effective and deliver better outcomes.

The discussion that followed was very valuable. Martin Brookes from NPC was, as usual, impressive. They are doing interesting work on measuring well being. We know that many third sector organisations work to increase well being but find it hard to demonstrate that. And as a contribution to our life as a nation the third sector 's work increases happiness. My previous Deputy CEO, the talented and brainy Nick Aldridge, now CEO of Mission Fish, wrote an ACEVO pamphlet on this that is well worth reading. Click here to read about it.

We badly need a greater consensus on the best frameworks for measuring impact and well being. One of the direct results of the seminar is that SIB will look to do some work with NPC on all this. Perhaps looking at a cluster type study of community anchor organisations and their social impact in building community impact.

I may not have done justice to the Heidelberg study. It's known as the SONG study. They are translating the results into English so we can see in more detail what is an important contribution to the debate. In the meantime I would be happy to pass on the PowerPoint slides to anyone wanting them. Leave a message here and I shall organise


d Moro said...

I am not sure you are 100% right. My understanding is that a small part of that huge saving is due to volunteering. Anyway the most interesting bit for me is that a huge saving comes from efficiency allocations of resources that third sector organizations were able to achieve.

Unknown said...

Hi Stephen, I'm a foundation doctor working in collaboration with Northwest Charitable Organisation. The project concerns Wellbeing, with a specific focus on measuring the contribution of the Charitable Sector. This is just the sort of thing I've been looking for. Would it be possible to have a copy of the presentation e-mailed to me?