There is an old truism in management theory – ‘you manage what you measure’. That being the case, it is unsurprising that so many organisations spend so much time, money and effort managing the outputs of business processes such as repairs, arrears and customer feedback. These are what can be measured and, with the latest software, technology and business process analysis, measured with increasing sophistication and sensitivity. Turned into balanced scorecards and incorporated into corporate performance management systems, these numbers can inform boards beautifully about the outputs of their organisation, and the efficiency of its inner workings.
However, an increasing number of organisations are becoming dissatisfied with the measurement of output alone. Driven in part by the increasing need to ensure that every single penny of expenditure is made to count, some are turning their focus on trying to measure outcomes for tenants and service users. The focus on measuring corporate outcomes has adopted the vocabulary of social impact and social return on investment, two allied concepts bound together by the desire to measure (as it says on the tin) the social impact (on life chances, educational achievement, employability and so on) of the total organisational effort.
In some of the early discussions we found the view that social impact was simply a variant on value-for-money (VFM), a particularly focused VFM judgement. However social impact is used in a completely different way to VFM: VFM will tell you which kind of car you need to buy, social impact will tell you whether you should buy a car or go on holiday. Or, to put it another way, do you invest your organisation’s resources in developing 50 new affordable rent homes in district A, or do you invest in a new social enterprise in district B? Social impact analysis will give you the toolset to understand how to make that judgement.
There is also an interesting side effect we have noticed. Engaging with the idea of social impact – what difference do we really make? – has the effect of re-engaging people in a new way with the vision and mission of the organisation. That in turn seems to put a new spring in the step and a twinkle in the eye – not something you normally associate with econometrics or consultancy!
Altair has been working with Moat Homes and Viridian Housing turning the aspiration of measuring social impact into reality and that work is now bearing fruit. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Fiona Underwood or Mark Sweeny. firstname.lastname@example.org; tel: 07788 643 092 email@example.com; tel: 07887 512 165