Measuring your social impact can be challenging. By working with Thrive ventures we’ve learnt that taking the following steps can help you to better understand why you should measure your social impact and how to do it more effectively within your core business:
Over the last 6 months our Thrive: Access to Employment accelerator has supported 18 social ventures to grow their activities and their social impact. We have helped them better understand, measure and celebrate their social impact, linking it to their core business strategy and activities. Through this work we’ve identified key steps that other social entrepreneurs should consider to measure their own impact effectively.
We would like to introduce them in this blog and explore them further through a series of follow up learning blogs.
There are many ways in which social entrepreneurs are creating impact. We’ve defined these into the below ‘impact model’ categories in a previous research. Each of the Thrive ventures we’ve worked with falls into one of these types. It is likely that one of these fits with your own business goals and plan.
Impact seller: Ventures in this model ‘sell’ social impact, often in the form of training courses or delivering other employment-related service, to clients who then pay for specific social outcomes. For example, Thrive venture, The Samee Project, delivers social impact through their personalised mentoring to help people overcome barriers to work.
Impact employer: Impact employers generate social impact through the sale of goods or services while employing people distant from the labour market. Thrive venture Radiant Cleaners employs those who have faced multiple barriers to good employment by giving them a job that works for them. Many of Radiant Cleaners’ employees are long term unemployed and have faced challenges such as homelessness, domestic abuse and drug addiction
Profit donor: Some ventures ‘donate’ net profit to create social impact. Thrive venture Fat Macy’s generates impact through donating profits from its catering business to provide housing deposits for its trainees. Fat Macy’s trainees are made up of young people who are at risk of homelessness. Fat Macy’s combination of catering training, job experience and profit donating supports young people into sustainable housing.
Hybrid: Many ventures generate impact in multiple facets of their business. For example, Thrive venture Redemption Roasters “sells” its skills in speciality coffee barista training to prisons to support prisoner skill development. At the same time, the venture “employs” ex-offenders in its coffee shops across London after they are released from prison and graduated from their coffee training course.
Evidencing social impact should contribute to your work and compliment your core business activities. Considering how you generate impact, from the ‘impact model’ categories above, is a good starting point for you to think about what you should be measuring. After identifying how you generate impact, you can choose different tools depending on what you want to know and your audience. Two key questions to ask yourself are:
Think about who you want to talk to about your social impact (e.g. board, staff, beneficiaries, funders, suppliers, customers, commissioners etc.), what you want to tell them and how. Feedback from these people can be particularly helpful for you to decide what are the most important things you need to measure to evidence your impact but also to improve your core business, product or services.
For example, most of our Thrive ventures providing access to employment are looking at evidencing similar outcomes, including increase on the number of jobs created, improved wellbeing, distance travelled towards accessing a job.
Remember that evidencing longer term outcomes (such as onward employment outcomes like sustained job, quality of employment or job satisfaction) is more difficult to measure and often requires more time. Using a theory of change (TOC) can help you to refine what you should and shouldn’t measure. For a good example, go here.
Once you’ve identified what you are measuring, it’s important to select the right indicators that will allow you to evidence the change you are creating. This can be a hard task, as many of the social issues our entrepreneurs are tackling are complex and difficult to quantify.
Using already established standard metrics can significantly reduce your workload, give you access to comparable data and provide more quality assurance to your social impact findings. We will provide more information on where to find and choose appropriate metrics in a follow-up piece.
Thrive ventures are using standard and bespoke metrics to evidence their impact. For example, The Lab Project and SAMEE are using well established indexes such as the Short Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Survey (SWEMWBS) to measure their impact. On the other hand, Radiant Cleaners have developed their own measurement tool, the Living Life Index (LLI) based on the areas of personal development that are most important to their employees. The LLI offers excellent results for Radiant Cleaners because they put in extra effort to ensure what they were measuring was meaningful.
If you choose to use more bespoke metrics to demonstrate your social impact, make sure they are SMART! (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timebound)
Managing your social impact takes time and resource. Plan ahead so that you are able to use your data effectively when you invested your time and resource into collecting it. For many, this means investing in a functional databases for social impact management.
Either using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database or online Data Collection Systems (e.g. Survey Monkey) can massively increase productivity and prepare a venture for scale.
There are many tools out there. Thrive venture Proper Job has found Lamplight very useful and affordable and have collected fantastic social impact data across all their operational areas and their different services. Recently, Proper Job tested a new product combining the best elements of their ‘Lab Project’ and their ‘Lab Wellbeing’ workshops. The data generated using Lamplight gave feedback to develop and refine the new product within delivery of the first workshop.
Social impact toolkit
Indicators & Methods
How to write an impact report & some example reports
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