Helping you understand, measure
and communicate your Social Impact
You only get one chance to tell your story so make the most of it.

Back to basics: what is social impact?

At Gauge we love working with clients to help them understand, measure and communicate their social impact. As well as carrying out evaluations, one of our key aims is to help raise awareness of and inform people about social impact measurement and how it can be beneficial in all sectors.
 
With that in mind we thought we would run a series of blog posts going ‘back to basics’. We are hoping to demystify social impact and help people to understand what it is, how they can measure it and what to do with the results. To kick us of we are asking, what is social impact?
 
Social impact
 
Social impact and how to measure it is a topic which can seem full of jargon at first. Talk of outputs, outcomes, impact and tools for measuring these may seem overwhelming. However if you stop and think about what social impact is, the chances are you’ll find that it is something  that most people do already have an understanding of.
 
Put simply, social impact is the contribution an organisation makes to its end users, the community it operates within and to society in general. 
 
Social impact in the third sector
 
For charities and social enterprises social impact means the effect the work of the organisation has on those who they work with as well as the wider community. 
 
For instance a homeless charity may exist primarily to provide shelter to those who need it. However, as the organisation grows and develops it might begin to offer employment and training opportunities to service users, which also leads to them gaining employment and rebuilding their lives. This organisation is having an obvious social impact on the service user it is helping,  wider than that there may also be a positive impact on the persons family and there is an impact on the state as service users may no longer be dependent on benefits.
 
Social impact in the private sector
 
Many businesses in the private sector create social impact through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy. This could include fundraising for a charity of the year, offering staff volunteering days, developing ethical and social enterprise supply chains, an environmental policy or commitment to providing training and employment opportunities to people from disadvantaged backgrounds. 
 
The social impact of all these policies could be wide reaching, for instance an organisation that fundraises £50k annually for a children’s cancer charity will make a massive difference to the beneficiaries and the sustainability of the organisation providing capacity for social impact to occur. While for a young person who left school with no qualifications being offered an apprenticeship with a company can be life altering.
 
Social impact in the public sector
 
Public sector services such as health providers, social housing and councils provide facilities and programmes which have a direct social impact on those using them. 
 
A good example of this is the Castlereagh Safe and Well Programme (CSAW) which was funded by The Big Lottery and supported by Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council. The aim of the programme was to improve the physical, mental and social health and wellbeing of both individuals and the community through free gym usage for older and disabled people followed by a period of structured physical activity classes, first aid classes, GP referral programme for overweight young people, home safety sessions and a volunteer coach education programme.
 
As a result of these activities there are a number of social outcomes for a range of stakeholders including improved physical health, improved mental wellbeing, increased independence and reduced social isolation for the participants in the programme as well as improved efficiency for project partners through collaboration. 
 
At Gauge we work with a wide range of organisations from across all sectors to understand, measure and communicate their social impact. In our next ‘Back to Basics’ post we will take a look at how organisations can begin to measure the social impact of their work.
 
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Gauge NI: 15-17 Grosvenor Road, Belfast, BT12 4GN