Guide to measuring social impact

December 6, 2011

The SIM Handbook: West Sussex County Council’s guide to social impact measurement.

Organisations interested in social value, like social enterprises, often need to show they are making an impact with what they do. West Sussex County Council have produced a handbook on measuring the social impact of these kinds of organisations. It suggests creating a Storyboard from eight relevant questions (below) to formally plan and measure an organisation’s impact. This better understanding is useful for when they need to improve or communicate that impact. It is suitable for complete beginners as well as those who are regularly thinking about the impact they make.

It has a lot of information in 40 pages, including some sensible advice – such as “Often social impact measurement will seek to ‘measure everything and tell absolutely everyone about it’. This will drain your resources as an organization as well as yourself personally and will be quite ineffective!” – and some useful tips. It is low on jargon, but it does help if you are practiced in reading rather sprawling sentences – for example, “The Storyboard exercise provides an opportunity at the start of a project (and its evaluation) of bringing people together who stand to benefit (or who are already benefiting) from the work of an organisation, in order to plan the detailed actions and activities that need to be undertaken, identify where to look for evidence of impact, and generate interest and buy-in from potential partners. “  The sections on use of data, and commissioning and procurement are however rather basic – they may only be of use as introductions to these detailed subjects.

This accessible and thought-through approach to thinking about the impact of organisations could easily be used by Lambeth organisations intending to co-produce services.

Questions for the Storyboard method

1. What is the context in which your organisation operates, in terms of citizen’s needs?2. What are the main activities that are undertaken (or planned) as part of the organisation’s day-to-day running?

3. What initial results or changes have you seen (or would expect to see) as a result of these activities and actions?

4. What medium-term changes do you expect to see as a result of the work of the organisation?

5. What are the long term changes you create for:

  • Citizens. E.g. Independence, well-being?
  • What are the impacts on society or the economy more broadly?

6. How do the initial results (from Question 3 above) lead to the medium-term changes that you identified in response to Question 4?

7. How do the medium-term changes (from Question 4 above) lead to the longer-term changes that you identified in response to Question 5?

8. What challenges or barriers have you encountered (or foresee) in terms of: operational challenges; policy/ regulation barriers; other issues? 

West Sussex Social Impact Handbook

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