When it comes to social enterprise the organizations can easily measure and communicate the business metrics and data points but defining social impact has been a different story. The kicker in this situation is that the greater success of their organization and activities depends on our ability to demonstrate the impact of our work to staff, funders, clients, other stakeholders and the general public.
So traditionally positive change has been measured by anecdotal evidence gathered when clients are seen benefiting from services, not from numbers and statistics. This material has its place but it does not fully answer the challenge. How do you measure the impact of a meal? Is it body mass index? Why not? Qualitative information can be very effective in measuring social change. It has to be done in a systematic way and by thinking ahead to how you need people to evaluate the program. This is the centre of the organizational vision—the organization needs to define their own success.
Establishing benchmarks on this base data can help the organization confirm if they are on the right track, but often don’t tell the full story. This is where the soft side of the tale is added. In this way the organization can round out their story and talk about the impact that the organizations’ work outside of their focus. If you say: We served these people, here are the statistics on how they are doing. Now let me tell you about “John Smith” who has reduced his usage of health care and justice systems. In this way you can both measure the direct impact that is within the organizations control and place the work within the greater fabric of society.
Here is a great presentation on SROI (Social Return on Investment) from Joanne Norris of Social Capital Partners in Toronto.