As a social enterprise, it is important to be able to measure impact. The School of Social Entrepreneurs says that measuring impact is key to demonstrating that a social enterprise is making a difference. Measurement of impact matters, but it is not always easy to do so. This is the first in the series of articles where I would be looking at the concept of ‘impact’ in social enterprises. For over twenty years, several methodologies, approaches, and techniques have been developed to measure the impact of a social enterprise. The emergence of the field of social enterprise in its own right, as a value and purpose-driven business model has made it imperative to talk about the Social Return on Investment (SROI). The Social Return on Investment is a method for measuring and communicating a broad concept of value, and accounting for the activities and the contributions that made that value possible. It is also the story of the change affected by the various activities, told from the perspective of the stakeholders.
The impact for an organization could be social, environmental or economic and is linked back to the original mission statement of the social enterprise. It is therefore important to be clear on the value of the enterprise. Understanding, measuring and communicating impact is crucial to engage stakeholders, existing funders and customers, and to create new connections.
Natalia Komis, CEO of Remote Mission, says that “Being able to measure the impact that is made is crucial to understanding where we can evolve, do more and know what is working and what isn’t.” Their mission is to help build a truly inclusive economy and make the most of available skills and technologies to close the gap in our society, by opening the doors so that people can live where they want, do ‘good’ work and pay the bills. Natalia also believes that measuring impact is crucial because “…it is really important for us to be able to show organizations that there is a better way to do business and to hire people and that it’s working, not only that, it’s making a difference.”
Storytelling can be a very effective means of measuring impact qualitatively from the stakeholders. It fosters a sense of belonging and pride for the stakeholders in the value and purpose of the organization which will, in turn, result in higher SROI. Natalia also says that “Having people who have got remote jobs in socially minded businesses through Remote Mission to share their story – how they got it, why it was important to them that they did this type of work and what difference it has made to them has helped us measure the change.”
In a case study in India, storytelling was seen as a very effective way of getting qualitative insights into the social change taking place through a social enterprise’s intervention. It tells human stories behind the data points, and it gives a sense of dynamism and excitement that a static dataset often fails to provide. This case study also was very relevant in the context of the end user, where it was easier for these women to come together and share their stories and experiences in an informal, semi-structured way, providing more valuable insights and first-hand opinions rather than relying solely on surveys and questionnaires.