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Social enterprises need to rethink metrics if they are going to be useful to any of us

  • Warren Rogers, Director, Connection Crew

How can we ensure that impact measurement is a useful tool in managing an organisation to maximise impact? Warren Rogers, Director of Connection Crew was invited to join the panel interrogating that question at today’s Good Deals 2016 along with representatives from The Good Economy, Family Action and the Transformational Index.

Here’s a soundbite from Warren’s introduction to impact measurement from a front-line Social Enterprise.

“Measuring our social impact has taught us that social enterprises need to be more responsive and objective about delivering impact outside of simply capturing it as a metric because it isn’t always going to be a true picture of what is actually going on.

We have been reporting on our social impact in detail since 2012 via our own metric. As a result we were able to launch our Connection Crew CSR Account in the same year – an annual endorsement of each clients’ contribution to our ex-homeless employees in terms of hours of work provided.

We have seen two key things from this. Firstly, our clients can benefit hugely from our data, when it comes to procurement and in light of the social value act. Over a third of our surveyed clients said it’s helped them to win business.

And secondly, that our social impact is directly linked to the commercial success of our enterprise. The two very much go hand-in-hand. As an organisation we are interested in how closely our performance as a business is linked to our social impact data, and when we are talking about measurement this must be in relation to the change and scalability of our business.

Recently we carried out a 10 years of social impact report on what we had achieved as a business. It was a warts-and-all account of successes and failures and in the interest of authenticity it was told in the voices various stakeholders, not just our own.

This was in order to better understand how we need to look ahead to the next 10 years and align our business’s social goals with our activities. To do this we needed to uncover and interrogate experiences, or qualitative data, as well as quantitative measures.

Through the exposé we saw that in aiming to create jobs through our training Academy we had to be more open minded about what it is that we are actually achieving. We had to ask ourselves:

– How relevant our achievements actually are – are they still in line with our wider aims as an organisation?
– Are we ensuring that we are monitoring the above to know when we are succeeding and when we are failing?

Being realistic there are often considerable workplace accessibility issues that we all face, in our case such as:

– The pipeline of suitable individuals – crewing is a demanding job and not right for everyone
– The pipeline of suitable individuals is in constant flux
– The throughput of individuals and actual opportunity of employment outside of the training programme

So we’ve have had to be reactive to change as it arises to be able to deliver impact.

As social enterprises looking to scale we must continue to challenge our data to mitigate against redundancies in it as the reporting requirement will simply move on from where it all starts from. It undoubtedly has with us as we’ve continued to evolve.

Certainly as Social Enterprises dealing with employment, we all need to look outside of the core of our business for new solutions in creating jobs for people furthest from the work market. For example, we’d like to work together with other social enterprises to allow for greater success with candidates who are not suitable for long-term work with us but have gained soft skills and work readiness through our training Academy – and vice versa.

In doing this there will always be a progression in what we report on and a wider effect, much like a ‘ripple of influence’ that has unintended but often positive impact on a wider audience. With this in mind standardisation becomes challenging, measurement has to develop in line with our own progression, but that’s a topic for later.

It’s only as a social enterprise that we see, or indeed look for, this wider impact and therefore must adapt to it in order to continue be a more effective enterprise. It’s this opportunity to be reactive to positive change that makes the sector so dynamic.”

By | 2017-06-16T11:49:09+00:00 November 15th, 2016|Advice, Opinion, Uncategorized|