Ask The Expert
Lucy Meyler is a Consultant with Stepping Out and leads on our work helping social businesses to improve their social impact reporting.
Why do social businesses need to know about their social impact and how can it be measured?
To start with a quick definition: social impact is the effect that an activity has on individuals and communities; this can be social, economic or environmental.
It is particularly important for social businesses to be aware of their social impact because, by definition, they aim to achieve positive outcomes for society. Examining the whole effect that your activities as a business have enables you to truly know and understand the benefits of your work. It also allows you to evaluate whether you are really achieving your goals as an organisation, and perhaps whether those goals are realistic.
Measuring social impact is also increasingly important for any competitive business, particularly in public services. Since the introduction of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, all public authorities are required to consider the social impact of public service contracts. Demonstrating the extra social impact that your organisation will achieve through delivering a service emphasises your quality, value for money and can improve your chances of being commissioned.
Often measuring social impact can seem daunting, another chapter to add to the infinite annual report. However, the way you report your social impact can be as simple or as complicated as you like. The basic approach is to first identify the groups that are affected by your work, then understand the outcomes you are achieving for them, for example â€˜helping our customers to feel more confidentâ€™.
Once you have identified some outcomes you need to work out what to measure them by, for example â€˜customers reporting increased confidence after six week courseâ€™, and then how you will measure them, perhaps through a questionnaire.
Each of these stages can throw up a huge amount of possibilities so it is very important to stay focussed throughout the process. Donâ€™t get side-tracked by positive effects that you know about but that do not matter to your core business.