As we launch our impact guide and survey, Gen Maitland Hudson explains how we've gone about exploring data performance and how 'impact-focused' organisations can get involved.
Before Christmas we published our plan to better understand the impact generated by the organisations that we support through our funds and programmes. Now we’re publishing the first version of our impact guide, and the impact survey that goes with it.
The guide is currently in PDF format, but we plan to make it easier to consult online on our website soon. We’ll include examples when we do that, to make it as straightforward as possible for our customers and the wider sector to understand what we mean when we score against the six core categories in the guide.
With this guide, we want to define a clear set of principles for organisational performance that are open and transparent. We also want to share them widely, inviting feedback, to make them as useful and usable as possible.
We’ve drawn on Oxfam’s work to define fairer business in developing our core categories, and have also based them firmly on evidence that suggests that a defined and enshrined business model, sound employment practices, eye to equalities, understanding of market fit and supply chains and well-rounded approach to financial sustainability anchor an impact-led business and allow that business to do its best work.
Our six core categories
We’ll be implementing this approach in two ways to start with: with retrospective scoring of our loan book to test the method and to see how well it holds up against our existing portfolio of loans, and by embedding this approach in new funds and programmes.
What this will mean in practice for an organisation applying to us, is that we’ll score for impact as part of our due diligence, and this score will form a part of the assessment pack that goes to an investment or grants panel. Scores will be assessed on their own merits, in the context of the financial assessment, and against a portfolio score for each fund. We’ll then regularly score again as part of our monitoring processes.
The guide is descriptive in order to be as easy and quick to use as possible. The categories it describes, however, are – for the most part – auditable through established data collection channels, and this for good reasons. We don’t want to add to the data burden that already exists for impact-led enterprises, we want to make better use of all the information they already submit to the Charity Commission, Companies House, regulators and others.
Our background data model will make use of the social investment data specification developed by Open Data Services in partnership with Key Fund, the Community Shares Unit and us here at SIB. The specification is an open one, and we hope by working to it that we can encourage other social investors to publish to it and create a data set for social investment that allows us to compare across our funds, and learn from each other as we do so. In aspiring to this, we are following in the pioneering work of 360Giving.
The guide, and the spec, are works in progress. We aren’t assuming that we’ve got this right yet, in fact we’re sure we haven’t. We are very keen to sense check it with organisations who are actively involved in providing services and developing products out there in the real world and would be very grateful indeed for their input and comments on the work we’ve done so far.
In short, do have a look, try out the survey, and get in touch with any thoughts you might have about how we can improve on what we’ve done so far.