When it comes to building a social enterprise, making sure the business is working in the way it should is critical, and it’s all down to measurement. Measurement can help you attract more investment, raise your profile, and make sure your enterprise is aligned to your vision.
Are you making the difference in your community that you wanted? How far-reaching are your efforts, and how many people’s lives are you impacting?
Conducting social impact measurement, or SROI (social return on investment), will help you answer these questions.
Define your objectives: Firstly, define what you will measure. These will relate to your original business plan and objectives for setting up your enterprise. You must know what change you wish to achieve and understand the outcomes necessary to achieve your goals.
Be clear about what you are measuring: If what you’re offering is unclear or does not communicate clarity on what they specifically want to achieve, it will be more difficult to measure whether their activities or other factors caused changes. Are you benefitting the local community? If so, in how many ways? Impact is not always social or environmental. There could be cost savings in other areas because of your enterprise. Economic benefits could cover things like reduction in government expenditure, and economic multipliers (hiring local talent).
What activities does your organisation carry out that makes a difference? Think beyond your primary beneficiaries to the wider community, country and maybe even the world.
Focus on your outcomes: Make sure you’re measuring the right things - your outcomes, not your outputs. For example, distributing 25 mosquito nets (output) does not necessarily mean that will be a reduction of instances of malaria; the malaria nets may never be used. It’s easy to assume you’re making a difference, but are you really?
Involve your beneficiaries: Next, ensure that the beneficiaries are consulted when measuring your impact. Qualitative data is just as good and can support quantitative data when reviewing how much of a difference you’ve made. Use statistics alongside quotes that you can use on your marketing channels, such as your website or adverts.
Use a case study to demonstrate your impact: Include information, for example, on where people were before the intervention and what changed afterwards. A good question to ask yourself is ‘what would have happened were my social enterprise not established?’
Limit your time spent on measurement: If you can afford to outsource, then great, but most people don’t have the resources, which means they can spend more time than necessary on measurement. Remember, impact is more important than measurement, so ensure you still have enough time to build your social enterprise whilst you’re evaluating it’s activity.
Finally, it’s all about getting your measurement recognised. To raise the profile and status of your organisation, you can apply to have your social enterprise accredited using the Social Enterprise Mark, provided it meets certain measurement standards. The School for Social Entrepreneurs also runs courses on measuring your social impact.