Gen Maitland Hudson explains the reasoning behind Social Investment Business's approach to measuring and managing impact and how charities and social enterprises can use it to assess their structures and processes and how they contribute to creating positive change.
Beyond external evaluations of Big Lottery programmes, Social Investment Business (SIB) has released very little in recent years regarding either the impact it is having or its overall approach to impact.
In January, we will share our new approach to tackling impact measurement and management, and our timetable for sharing its results .
We need to better understand the positive change we might expect from a charity or social enterprise, and how our support might contribute to that change.
Our demands for data need to be reasonable. Data collection, monitoring and management are no small task, our customers sometimes struggle to meet monitoring demands and get too little that is useful to them from the data they collect.
To try and get this balance right, we’ve taken inspiration from the good research principles of impact evaluations whilst aiming to keep the data collected against those principles proportionate and useful. We don’t want to add to the data burden felt by frontline organisations. Our starting point is making much better analytical use of the information that is already collected, both to learn ourselves and improve the support that we offer, but also to share with organisations who access our funding, and the wider sector.
Our pledge to better evaluate social impact
We aim to build on existing data in our historical portfolio - a rich source of information that shows how longer term, patient finance can help to sustain impact-led organisations.
As we develop our data sets and scoring, our ambition is to invite customers and our peers to conduct regular audits of our impact data, holding ourselves to high standards of accountability for the social impact that we aim to create.
Our impact categories
It is always easier to evaluate impact against a clearly defined model. This often takes the form of a Theory of Change. We’re setting out the model in a set of core categories that we believe support an organisation to be impact-led. The core categories are listed below, and will be published with more supporting detail in our guide in January. Each category will also be published alongside a definition, an evidence summary and a bibliography, in the course of 2019.
|Business model||this focuses on business structures that are more likely to lead to equitable behaviour and outcomes.|
|Employment||this focuses on employment practices that are more likely to lead to equitable outcomes for lower wage earners.|
|Market||this centres on the fit between the product or service and an evidenced need, service or product quality, and standard setting.|
|Community||this assesses community voice, the business impact on its supply chain and trading for community benefit.|
|Equalities||this assesses the business’s focus on reaching and involving marginalised workers, members and communities.|
|Leverage||this assesses whether and to what extent a business is leveraging finance from its members and community, from grant funding, and from repayable sources.|
These categories are based on pioneering work conducted by Oxfam, on learning from SIB’s portfolio of loans and grants, and on wider evidence on organisational behaviours and the impact they have on customers and communities. Because SIB supports social businesses by deploying finance, and we are interested in the health and resilience of the whole organisation, these categories focus on the kinds of organisational behaviours that available evidence suggests have the greatest direct impact on inequality.
These include paying fair wages, prioritising training and progression, introducing and expanding profit sharing, and broadening access to representation and governance.
These kinds of organisational behaviours take businesses beyond good practice towards the kind of social contribution that leads to the structural change that reduces inequality.
What we plan for the new year
- We’re publishing our impact approach now and inviting people to give us feedback.
- Our guide and survey will be published in full in January 2019.
- In the spring of 2019 we will publish retrospective analysis of our loan book using the categories.
- In the summer of 2019 we will publish our first impact report.
- By the autumn of 2019 we will publish definitions and literature reviews for each core category alongside our timetable for systematically reviewing them against our data, and new evidence. Additionally, we will in future look at:
- Introducing new categories. We have a commitment to ensuring that customer feedback is integrated into decision-making across the full chain of delivery. We’re mindful of the data burden on the frontline and will test new approaches to additional data collection with frontline organisations before integrating new measures into the impact categories, but aim to do so if these are useful to understanding our impact, and that of our investees.
- Peer review and audit.
We will be releasing the guide and a survey in the new year which you can use to score your own charity or social enterprise, so keep an eye out for that in January. If you have any questions about the process, please get in touch and email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to know more.
You can read the full statement about Our Impact Approach here.