Measuring and Evaluating Social Value

In Salford we want all organisations to be able to measure and then demonstrate their Social Value. This will allow providers to prove and improve their Social Value; all organisations to be accountable to their stakeholders; and for us collectively to build up a picture of Social Value and impacts across the city. We want to better inform commissioning and procurement decisions around Social Value and be able to make the most difference to Salford and the lives of the people who live here.

Think about the key reasons why you want to measure your Social Value and your expectations about the process. Is it for being accountable to your staff and stakeholders; is it for tendering or fundraising; is it for your Annual Report? The most important thing will be to get ‘buy in’ from all staff, as well as the people who manage your organisation or decide what it does.
By measuring Social Value, your organisation will be able to work over time to prove its value to others, improve its systems and arrangements to make the most value and be accountable to its stakeholders and investors. Above all it will be able to show how it is making a difference in Salford.

There are lots of tools and lots of ways to measure your Social Value. The problem will be choosing the one that’s best for you!
New Economics Foundation’s Prove and Improve website is a good place to start, as is their simple Impact Mapping’ tool, illustrated below.

  • Inputs – Resources of all kinds
  • Activities – What the organisation does
  • Outputs – The direct result of an activity
  • Outcomes – The longer term change it wants to see in people, communities, or areas it affects
  • Expected Impact – The values it holds

Map out who is affected by or affects your organisation in all of its activities, whether intentionally or not. Think about the relationship that you have with each one and whether some are more important than others.

Specify what the organisation does and how it does it; how it intends to achieve its social, environmental, and economic mission as well as its financial sustainability; and how it plans to live up to its values.

The organisation needs to be able to identify and show progress and identify both intended and unexpected outcomes. Here, you’ll prioritise what is most important to measure and choose the ways in which you will see change happening. Choose indicators which allow you to ‘tell the story’ of your work and its Social Value, as well as those which measure its size, shape or distance travelled.

After prioritising the indicators, decide on methods for collecting information relating to the indicators. Collecting information can be done in a number of ways as outlined in your methodology or plan, as long as it can be stored and drawn upon usefully. Some tools will help you collect information (e.g. standard questionnaires, customer surveys) and others will help you report it or see the progress that has been made (e.g. Outcomes Stars)
Social accounting is a methodology whereby an organisation can account for its Social Value alongside its financial accounting systems. The Social Audit Network publishes a Guide and operates audit mechanisms for VCSE organisations. For the private sector, several standards exist, including the Accountability Standard.
For those who want to understand more about the financial return from their Social Value, you could use Social Return on Investment  or Cost-Benefit Analysis
There are many, many tools available for organisations to measure their Social Value, start at Prove and Improve but think first about the resources and skills needed for each one – compared to those you have available.

Reports need to be clear, logically set out and ‘tell the story’ of your social impact. Where possible, they should demonstrate the real impact of what can be achieved, not just what can be easily measured. Tools such as social accounting provide a template for you to report your Social Value.

As it is very difficult to compare social value between providers, it may give you a competitive advantage to have your social accounts or social report independently verified. To do this you will need to have followed a framework such as that produced by the Social Audit Network and have presented your information in such a way that its reliability and robustness can be verified. For example, if you provide a statement about the social value that your training programme has had, you will need to be able to provide the evidence that this has actually happened from interviews with participants, evaluation sheets, etc. Social Value UK also has assurance arrangements for Social Return on Investment.

The Social Value Analysis which has already been undertaken in Salford to test commissioning and procurement exercises has asked the following questions:

  • Please describe your commissioning / procurement exercise – type of contract, geographical scope, size, lead agency, funding source,
  • Did you consider Social Value when planning your commissioning or procurement exercise?
  • If ‘yes’ explain what you did as a result? For example – included in commissioning strategy or specification, question in PQQ or ITT, discussed with potential providers, etc. please provide examples
  • If ‘yes’ what happened during the commissioning or procurement? What response did you get from providers? Do you think that they understood what you required?
  • If ‘yes’ what worked well and what didn’t? How do you think what you did could be improved?
  • If ‘no’ – why?
  • What barriers do you think there are to commissioning for social value?

There are two areas for evaluation:

  • The processes that we are using locally to increase Social Value (the Social Value Pledge principles, training and awareness raising, market building and change behaviour approach)
  • The impact of Social Value on Salford and its citizens

Firstly, all Pledge signatories will be expected to report on their Social Value every year. These reports will be used to compile a ‘Social Value in Salford’ report for the whole City as part of the evaluation of the difference that the Social Value Pledge has made.
Salford is exploring setting key priority areas of Social Value (environmental, economic and social) as the key drivers for social value work in Salford. These will be measurable in an accurate, timely and resource effective manner and be meaningful for all. The indicators, measured regularly will align with the City Partnership priorities, City Plan, and GM Social Value policy and strategy.

The indicators would sit within a reporting mechanism which will allow annual reporting of broader Social Value outcomes and processes and will monitor behaviour change.

The Greater Manchester Procurement Hub has also prepared a Social Value Policy and framework, which provides a framework for evaluation of Social Value impacts at the Greater Manchester level.

The Social Enterprise UK Report ‘Communities Count, Four Steps to unlocking Social Value’ describes the following key findings:

  • Social Value can deliver cost savings and better services. The wider range of benefits derived from a focus on Social Value is substantial: 71% said that it had led to ‘better service delivery’, and 70% said it had led to ‘opportunities for innovation’. Importantly, more than half of respondents (52%) said delivering Social Value leads to cost savings
  • Social Value improves external relationships. 82% of those surveyed reported that delivering Social Value had led to an ‘improved image of their organisation’, while 78% said it had led to ‘better community relations’.
  • Only a third of organisations are not considering Social Value across all services. 66% of organisations currently consider Social Value across all the services they procure, but this still leaves one third of housing associations and local authorities which do not.
  • Social Value leadership is crucial. Two thirds of respondents said their organisations have a nominated lead for Social Value. These organisations face fewer challenges in delivering and measuring Social Value than those without.
  • The Social Value Act has had limited impact so far. The Act created step-changes in how some organisations consider Social Value: 39% said it has had a high impact but 56% reported a low impact – largely because they were doing it already.
  • Current priorities are employment and job-creation. 80% of respondents stated employment as a key local Social Value priority. The other most popular employment related choices were youth employment, training and volunteering.
  • Social enterprise is a route to Social Value. 90% of respondents were very satisfied or satisfied that social enterprise was a route to delivering Social Value; many are using social enterprises to engage and involve tenants and residents.
  • Measurement is the biggest challenge. A majority of respondents report measurement as the main barrier to implementation, with 53% identifying it as the main barrier during the commissioning process and 55% as the main barrier post-commissioning in contract management.
  • Measurement improves with clarity of purpose. There is a strong correlation between those organisations which have a written Social Value policy, and those who have a method for measuring Social Value; only 37% currently have a policy.
  • Size matters. Smaller housing associations and local authorities tend to be less advanced in terms of Social Value policies, definitions and measurement – highlighting the need for guidance and support.