Measuring your social value (impact)

Traditional notions of value in the context of organisational governance have tended to focus on economic definitions and metrics. Value for money, profitability, cash flow, price/performance, and ‘value adding’ through risk reduction, automation, demand aggregation, logistic efficiency, etc. are just some of the forms of economic value used by managers and directors to assess the performance of their organisation.

Bain and Company Inc. have identified 30 elements of value grouped into functional, emotional, life-changing, and social impact clusters, broadly aligned with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs.

While the non-profit and for-purpose sectors place a high value on their social impact, until recently, they have tended to focus governance attention on quantitative measures of economic value, with less emphasis on social impact, which may require the use of qualitative measures for any evaluation to be ‘fit for purpose’.

Two services designed to assist these sectors to measure their social value are now available and worth considering.

Option 1 – Subscription service via ASVB

The Australian Social Value Bank (ASVB) is part of an international network, Social Value International (SVI) which aims to change the way we account for value. Central to that goal is the promotion of a set of Social Value Principles, drawn from social accounting and audit methodology, sustainability reporting, cost-benefit analysis, financial accounting, and evaluation practice.

The Principles are:

  1. Involve stakeholders – Inform what gets measured and how this is measured and valued in an account of social value by involving stakeholders.
  2. Understand what changes – Articulate how change is created and evaluate this through evidence gathered, recognising positive and negative changes as well as those that are intended and unintended.
  3. Value the things that matter – Making decisions about allocating resources between different options needs to recognise the values of stakeholders. Value refers to the relative importance of different outcomes. It is informed by stakeholders’ preferences.
  4. Only include what is material – Determine what information and evidence must be included in the accounts to give a true and fair picture, such that stakeholders can draw reasonable conclusions about impact.
  5. Do not over-claim – Only claim the value that activities are responsible for creating
  6. Be transparent – Demonstrate the basis on which the analysis may be considered accurate and honest and show that it will be reported to and discussed with stakeholders.
  7. Verify the result – Ensure appropriate independent assurance.

The ASVB offers a Value Calculator to support organisations assessing and measuring their social impact “in a resource appropriate and proportionate way”. This tool is accessed via an annual subscription, and more information is available at this link.

Option 2 – Free service via CSI’s Amplify Online

According to the Centre for Social Impact (CSI), their new Amplify Online service “is the first consistent, evidence-backed, free-to-use impact measurement tool for the Australian for-purpose sector“.

Their release states that this service has “undergone the rigorous process of identifying, classifying and ranking outcome indicators before they are published on our platform. All users need to do is provide basic information about their program or project and they are then supported from start to finish in identifying the most suitable outcomes and indicators to measure in survey format“.

CSI’s vision for Amplify Online is “to improve the use of evidence-based decision making, enable widespread social impact evaluation, and provide insights to as many of the 52,000 registered charities in Australia as possible. This is the for-purpose sector that we all want to work in, but evidence and evaluation can be a costly and complicated endeavour, especially for the one in two charities in Australia with no paid staff“.

Other social impact tools

These two online services are not the only resources available to non-profit and for-purpose entities looking to measure their social value (impact). A small selection of sites offering relevant tools and resources is provided below.

DISCLOSURE: the author has no referral relationship with either ASVB or CSI, nor are any fees received.

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