Measuring the impact of social enterprises – a novel approach
Posted on 8 January 2019 by susanna.jones
The CAG team is excited to be working with Devon County Council to develop an innovative method for testing the impact of social enterprises. The aim is to support the future growth of the sector by providing a way of demonstrating the direct social value that it delivers. As far as we know, previous approaches have not been able to demonstrate the combined effect of the whole sector, with all the different types of organisations it covers.
Social enterprises are businesses with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners. The diagram below shows the types of businesses which are being addressed by this project.
This is part of an in-life programme evaluation of the Enhance Social Enterprise Programme (ESE). This is a three-year business programme to develop and implement an effective ecosystem of support to social enterprises at any stage of their development from start up to growth, as well as development of existing businesses. The total programme is worth £1.8million, funded by ERDF together with matched funding from Devon County Council and the six delivery partners who are also social enterprises, or social enterprise networks). In total the project will provide support to 358 social enterprises across Somerset, Devon, Plymouth and Torbay.
CAG is working with Ash Futures and local associates, using a Theory of Change methodology to identify desired programme outcomes, route-map the necessary actions to achieve these, and undertake on going review and improvement.
A principal focus of the evaluation is testing social impact; identifying desired outcomes and measuring mechanisms for assessing that impact, including:
• A draft set of indicators against which progress can be assessed
• how those indicators can be measured, to provide a statement of programme outputs
• How those outputs can be aggregated, to evidence outcomes
• How those outcomes can be aggregated, to demonstrate social impact
As part of that work we needed to find a way to sub-divide the social enterprise sector, as this would make it easier to look at the social impact for the different types of enterprise. Our breakdown is shown below.
We will be testing this approach and providing an initial statement of social impact from a sample of enterprises by the end of March 2020. We will also be producing an online resource and map showing all the social enterprises in Devon and Somerset.
The purpose of all the project is to make the social enterprise sector stronger, more resilient and better understood. We hope to show that social enterprises are an important part of our economy and society and are worth supporting. We are putting a process in place which can achieve this, with a final report on social impacts being completed by November 2019.
The Heart of the South West Enhance Social Enterprise Programme is receiving funding from the England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.