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 Return on Investment?

At Gauge we often speak to people who are interested in social impact and how to measure their organisations impact but find the language and choice of measurement tools overwhelming. To help with this we decided to write a ‘Back to basics’ blog series, in our first post we asked what is social impact and our last post considered what is social impact measurement.
 
In that last post we took at look at some of the most common impact measurement tools and in this third instalment of the series we are going to look in more detail at one of those – Social Return on Investment (SROI).
 
Here at Gauge, whilst offering a range of impact measurement services and using multiple methodologies, we specialise in SROI assessments.
 
Social Return on Investment (SROI)
 
SROI is an approach to understanding and managing the impacts of a project, organisation or policy. It is a methodology for measuring social value centred on engaging with stakeholders and analyses your activities by prioritising what matters to the people who use your service.
 
The Guide to SROI summarises this pretty well: “[Social Return on Investment] tells the story of how change is being created by measuring social, environmental and economic outcomes and uses monetary values to represent them.”
 
SROI is a method of showing the value of your organisation in a tangible way. For example a charity that works to alleviate poverty will be well aware of how valuable it is not just to those it supports but to society as a whole. SROI helps put a monetary value on that work, allowing the charity to articulate clearly just how much of an impact they have. By using the SROI model that charity could determine for every pound it spends what this equates to in social, environmental and economic value. 
 
The anti-poverty charity could tell its funders just how amazing their work is and show funders the real life examples of those they help. But imagine the charity is then able to tell those funders that as well as these amazing and emotive examples of their work, that every £1 they invest equates to £5 of social value. 
 
Carrying out an SROI evaluation
 
SROI is an amazing tool for demonstrating your value to funders, investors, policy makers and government. A SROI evaluation can focus on one specific project or it can measure the social value of an entire organisation. The method can also be used both in evaluating activities and in forecasting and planning, taking into account both intended and unintended consequences of your work.
 
Many organisations choose to have independent evaluators carry out their SROI study as it can add authenticity to it. However it is also something staff can be trained in and carry out internally. 
 
The beauty of SROI is that it is grounded in seven core principles that help to ensure consistency:  
 
Involve stakeholders
Understand what changes
Value the things that matter
Only include what is material
Do not over claim
Be transparent
Verify the result
 
Based on these principles there are six stages of carrying out a SROI evaluation:
 
1. Establish scope & identify stakeholders
2. Map outcomes
3. Evidence outcomes and give them a value
4. Establish a value
5. Calculate
6. Report, use and embed
 
Some examples of how SROI can be used
 
At Gauge we pride ourselves on being one of Ireland’s leading Social Return on Investment practitioners and have carried out SROI evaluations for clients from various sectors. Some clients require robust evaluations to demonstrate their impact to funders, while others like to use their evaluation findings as a PR & marketing tool. There are several SROI case studies on our website which explain why our clients decided to carry out a SROI evaluation and what they did with the findings, take a look at the following:
 
 
If you would like to find out how your organisation could use SROI to demonstrate your impact, get in touch with us on 02890 234414 or email info@gaugeni.co.uk
 
Some useful links for further reading:
 
Call us: 028 9043 6400
Gauge NI: 15-17 Grosvenor Road, Belfast, BT12 4GN