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Measuring social impact – “Creating the Future of the Social Edge”

A few years ago, most of the private sector companies, or CSR donors, probably wouldn’t have thought to ask organizations like INJAZ, Emirates Foundation and other non-profit organization in the region, what impact their financial or in-kind contribution will have at the end. They all have social, environmental and economic impacts that have an effect on the broader community.

• How will they know when they have succeeded?
• How should they measure their social outputs?
• How should they measure the value of achieving their social objectives?
• How should a nonprofit manager respond when a donor asks for proof of his or her contribution’s impact on a particular social issue?

The donors are all struggling to identify when they have moved beyond implementing a good idea to achieving real change. They all want to make sure that their investments have the greatest impact possible and are looking for ways measure this. Donors are increasingly curious about the impact of their investment. Now, we can often see, or at least assume the benefits of their work. But in today’s world it is necessary to communicate specific details about those benefits in order for them to be fully acknowledged and help take the right decision for future social investment.

Here comes the importance of Measuring Social Impact. It seems to be one of the “growing buzz” words of the industry today. When we talk to organizations about Measuring Social Impact the most common response is that it just feels like there is now this extra thing they need to do in relation to their monitoring but without having access to the necessary resources to implement it. Undoubtedly, there are many barriers to measuring social impact.

Globally experts in the field flagged three leading methods of measuring social impact: Social Accounting and Audit, Social Return on Investment, and Logic Frame. However, their value didn’t really touch the core of the issue simply because they all remain frameworks, not actual tools. These three leading measures provide a way for the right strategy to organize the approach to impact assessment. What is actually in dire need are simple but effective tools designed around specific practical activities to help provide numerical data and clear metrics.

Having said that, much research is now being focused on developing a set of local standards, metrics and what we call “financial proxies of social engagement practices of corporations in their communities.” This research is focused on finding a way to monetize the value of the social impact in financial terms and comparing that value to the cost of investment. This way the social reports will be much more credible to stakeholders and it will help advancing the transparency standards in the business world. Once developed, this tool will create the edge of Measuring Social Impact for the coming future.

Monaem Ben Lellahom

Head of Sustainability Services

Sustainable Square Consultancy & Think Tank


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