Social impact measurement conundrums

There are good reasons for measuring social impact - to learn from past activity, motivate staff, and to solicit outside support - but integrating it into the tendering process is fraught with difficulties. 

 

Firstly, there's an in-built tension between measuring what will be relevant to a particular enterprise and the community to which it's are accountable, and what commissioners might want to have measured to compare bids.

 

Another issue is the multitude of social impact measurement tools and systems around making it both accessible, but confusing, for newcomers. Training courses and written materials are available to help enterprises decide what would be right for them - but ultimately it has to be their decision.

 

Setting standards?


Unless someone tries to 'set the standard' and impose their own measurement systems... Which begs the question - at what level should such decisions be made, and by whom?

 

The bottom-up / top-down tension above extends to potential conflict between the localism agenda - devolved decision-making - and central government's expressed wish to see social impact measurement more widely understood and used.
  

And is it realistic to expect that standard meaningful measures could ever be found that are relevant to both not-for-private-profit and private sector businesses?  


Chris White MP's private members Public Services (Social Value) Bill aims to make more explicit the importance of social impact when commissioning pubic services. Recent amendments have removed specific reference to social enterprises as the guardians of social value, and clearly they don't have a monopoly on this.


Social impact must be genuine


So, if  the Bill becomes law, all providers may be encouraged to demonstrate their social impact in future competitive tendering processes. This is, objectively, 'a good thing' but, like corporate social responsibility, businesses must really walk the talk to demonstrate their social impact and not just use it as another tick-box exercise.  And who could/should be the arbiter of 'real' social impact?