Matt Leach

SOCIAL VALUE GOES STRATEGIC?

N.B. This article is an edited version. To see the complete version of this blog, please go to The SROI Network’s blog on our home website here.

 

Less than a year ago, I was delighted to be invited to attend the SROI Network’s annual conference in Liverpool, where I made a tentative presentation around ideas HACT (a UK-based housing ideas and innovation consultancy) were developing in partnership with SROI Network advisor Daniel Fujiwara on new approaches to measuring social value, drawing on Daniel’s Wellbeing Valuation methodology, which has been generating increasing interest in both the UK and a range of OECD member states.

I’m now massively looking forward to this summer’s Social Value Matters, bravely scheduled to take place in Milan, in the two days leading up to England taking on Italy in their opening tie in the 2014 World Cup.  It is an event which looks set to highlight the extent to which the SROI Network has succeeded in mainstreaming social value thinking, across public, private and civil society sectors and internationally.   In the session I’ll be running with Daniel (now heading the ground-breaking social value consultancy, SImetrica), I’ll hoping to be able to share progress, and benefit from the input of an even wider group of social value thinkers and practitioners as we move from concept towards what we think will be an important and viable new approach to understanding and maximising organisational social value.

Social Value Matters is coming at an important time for HACT and for the wider social value community.  As concepts of social impact and return grow in visibility and are more broadly embedded in decision-making at all levels, some of the questions I raised in Liverpool have become more important.  In particular, the extent to which conventional SROI approaches are capable of providing support for decision making in larger organisations who may be investing resources across multiple areas of social value, and require strategic-level (as opposed to evaluative) tools to help them with that process

The challenge we have been seeking to address is whether it is possible to develop cost-appropriate approaches to social value measurement and decision making which are capable of helping complex organisations understand and compare the potential value of disparate community focused initiatives using comparable measures and metrics.  And to do so in a way that retains the core principles established by the SROI Network and are consistent with and complementary to conventional SROI approaches.

This is particularly important in our core sector of housing.  In the UK a housing association (not-for-profit landlords, providing 1 in 8 homes in England and Wales) might typically invest several hundred thousand pounds a year in support of activities ranging from community gardening to youth sports to employability initiatives – and want to be able to show to its residents, governing board and regulator that their investment decisions are underpinned by an understanding of the value they are creating.

In developing our approach, we’ve looked to focus on three key elements:

  1. A single and coherent methodological approach to the generation of social value proxies
  2. A light-weight, but insight rich framework for modelling and comparing intended impacts
  3. The ability to accommodate and sit alongside more in depth SROI investigations where that is appropriate.

 

The demand for this sort of model is already evident.  Since we launched Measuring the Social Impact of Community Investment: A Guide to using the Wellbeing Valuation Approach and its associated Social Value Bank in March, over 700 organisations have accessed guidance and values, with interest extending well beyond HACT’s core housing market.  This makes it (for the time being) the fastest growing new social value product launched in recent years.

We’re hugely excited by the impact of our new social value framework, and its potential as a tool for mainstreaming social value at a strategic level in organisations making choices and delivering impact across a range of differing social priorities.  HACT has already secured funding to support the development of further social values compatible with our new approach, working in partnership with Daniel Fujiwara and SImetrica, increasing its relevance and viability as a tool, and will be publishing v2 of our model and values later in 2014-15.

It is early days yet, and we’re still learning, developing and putting things right: we think the model and values are great, but at the moment, it’s still a work in progress rather than a final product.  We’re hoping that – as our Social Value Bank grows, and our methodology and model develops – we’ll benefit from developing practice and learning across the SROI field, and contribute to continued significant growth in the social value marketplace.  Its why I am very much looking forward to sharing where we’ve got to and benefiting from the great range of speakers and delegates who are going to be in Milan in five week’s time.

For more information on HACT’s approach to modelling and measuring social value, contact Head of Social Impact, Lizzie Trotter at lizzie.trotter@hact.org.uk.

This article is an edited version. To see the complete version of this blog, please go to The SROI Network’s blog on our home website here.

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