Advice from the experts

Photograph: Hans Neleman/ Hans Neleman/zefa/Corbis

The UK newspaper The Guardian has a “Professional Network” section, within which is the Social Enterprise Network. The network’s tagline positions it as a gathering of “insight, advice and best practice from the community.” There are lots of interesting articles on the site that I encourage you to read, and if you live in England you can also check out the events listings for “a selection of conferences, seminars and events for social enterprise professionals.”

A post from just last week entitled “Best bits: how to measure your social impact” is a roundup of experts in the social enterprise field including Peter MacCafferty – managing director, Social Impact Tracker and Jeremy Nicholls – chief executive, The SROI Network, giving some brief and to-the-point comments on how to make the difficult job of measuring social impact easier.

The comments range from the obvious (“Measuring soft outcomes can be difficult”) to the practical (“Planning is essential”) to the insightful (“Impact measurement should be an enabling process”). I particularly like the advice to “involve service users” in the planning stages to help determine exactly what kind of impact is expected to be created.

Jonathan Coburn of the Social Value Lab makes an interesting point that “accountability [must be] built into public sector programmes” to ensure buy-in from the “authorities.” Turn this towards the business sector – CEOs, board members, investors, and managers alike must be committed to measuring social impact as much as they are committed to measuring their finances. Even if they are committed because they believe it will add to their financial success, that’s OK. When business leaders are ranking measuring social impact on the same level of importance as how many click-throughs their advertising gets, we’re in good shape!

The Best Bits piece doesn’t specify who it is actually addressing – business leaders, nonprofit leaders, social entrepreneurs, etc. In fact, the advice offered is good for all of these. But it may only be the latter two who are actually looking for what the experts have to say about measuring social impact. I would like to see this same kind of advice directed squarely at private-sector leaders and investors. Would it change much? Check it out here and let me know your thoughts!



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