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Commonality and differences underpin new guide to impact measurement

May 13th 2013

The changing funding and delivery landscape, burgeoning social need, cash constraints in public funding, legislative change, growth of a measurement culture in policy-making and public life, and evolving thinking in measurement itself are the drivers behind another new guide to social impact measurement (read about EVPA’s Guide here).

Measuring Social Impact in Social Enterprise: The state of thought and practice in the UK was commissioned and authored by E3M as part of its wider work supporting the development of Social Enterprise in the UK and across Europe and funded with sponsorship from Baker Tilly, CAN, and Big Society Capital.

This report is the result of a challenge to the idea that the plethora of measurement tools and approaches, and the refreshing debate around them  are seen as divergent thought and disagreement.

It led to an idea to find out what would happen if a range of those involved in measurement – providers, funders, expert practitioners, academics, and commissioners – were to get together in an organised forum and debate and resolve these different views.

On 24th January a group did just that at an event hosted by Bates Wells & Braithwaite, and the resulting paper showed  four main thematic areas:

  • That measurement should be driven by the story of the intervention and by the needs of the organisations that deliver it
  • Measurement exists in a real world defined by market context and policy dynamics
  • Measurement varies to meet differing commissioning arenas, but should be sensitive to and not be driven by them
  • Funder views in the emerging Social Investment markets affect it

It also found the factors common to all measurement, without which it is unlikely to meet stakeholder needs fully, if at all, are:

  • A clearly enunciated story, with its theory of change, but with presentation adapted to the story it is trying to tell
  • A clarity of beneficiary perspective: who, how and how it looks from their viewpoint
  • Evidence of outcomes or causal link between outputs and outcomes with an intention to collect outcome data over time
  • Demonstration of that change over time, from the identified beneficiaries’ perspectives
  • Linking learning based on analysis back to organisational learning

The debate highlighted the point that Impact assessment isn’t just a reporting tool; “it’s a strategic one as well and the sector is well  place to be thought leaders in the way this is integrated into business, finance, and commissioning practices”.

The report1 can be downloaded for free here.

1Clifford, J., Markey, K., and N. Malpani. (2013) Measuring Social Impact in Social Enterprise: The state of thought and practice in the UK. London. E3M.


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