Recently I was in a webinar on Social Value that was looking mostly at practice within the UK and mostly within social enterprises.  Social Enterprise UK has done some research that suggests that 55% of social enterprises say that measuring impact is the greatest challenge.  In the most recent edition of Pioneers Post Quarterly Jeremy Nicholls suggests that impact measurement is far from consistent and actually quite a mine field.  It seems to be that measuring impact remains a challenge for organisations.

Yet what frustrated me in the webinar the other day was the lack of acknowledgement any progress made in the international development sector towards planning for and measuring social impact and social value.  When I raised the question it was politely dismissed, but nevertheless dismissed it was.

Now with my complexity hat on I am always going to champion a mix of approaches and solutions that organisations and businesses can apply to their specific context.  I am never going to support blanket “best practice” over “best-fit practice”.  I am always going to look and read widely, convinced that the solutions that will work will not come from a preferred narrow practice or theoretical tradition.  So I was excited when I read that Jeremy Nicholls suggested that we needed a new way of accounting for value – is that going to be one that moves Social Return on Investment (SROI) on into a form that can respond to complex real life?

While we work on improving and developing SROI, UK-focused organisations should not forget that there is a wealth of knowledge out there in other sectors that they can review and apply to their own situation,  which will not result in costly randomised control trials (which are a valuable research tool, but not ideal as an evaluation tool), or take up a lot of time, capacity and cost to implement (especially if you’re clear on your long-term objective and have spent time engaging your customers, stakeholders, funders and beneficiaries up front).  Other people have done incredible work and freely made that work available at sites like Trasi and Better Evaluation; and its all there, waiting for you to dive in and explore!

So please, don’t sit there throwing your hands up in horror that its all too difficult, don’t think that stuff that happens outside your sector or geographic location isn’t relevant to what you’re doing.  Stop reinventing the wheel and take a look around – there’s loads of advice and support and really excellent work that can make your measurement life easier, more effective and ultimately more impactful!

What has been your worst measurement or impact nightmare?  Does your organisation get measurement right or wrong?


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