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Measuring Social Enterprise Success. SCP Experience to date with Social Return on Investment (SROI) Analysis Workshop Presentation: Carleton Centre for Community Innovation Carleton University, Ottawa June 19 2006. Thinking About Success

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measuring social enterprise success
Measuring SocialEnterprise Success

SCP Experience to date with Social Return on Investment (SROI) Analysis

Workshop Presentation: Carleton Centre for Community Innovation

Carleton University, Ottawa

June 19 2006


Thinking About Success

There are two primary areas where SCP will be evaluating success. These include the setting and reaching of clear goals around:

    • Providing supportive employment and skill development opportunities to disadvantaged populations
    • Social enterprise profitability, ability to scale operations and eventually cover all social and financial costs
  • A social enterprise is achieving success if both enterprise target employees and the enterprise itself are able to develop paths towards self-sufficiency

Analyzing Success through Asset Building

    • Significant departure from traditional welfare economics
    • Increasingly, lack of access to assets ( financial, social, physical and natural) is a key indicator for why certain groups slip into and/or cannot move out of poverty
    • SCP is taking an asset-based approach through utilizing the Sustainable Livelihoods framework – a framework that address where people are now, where they want to go and how they want to get there

Measurement Framework

  • Need a flexible measurement framework driven by the needs of target employees and social enterprise stage of development
    • SCP is not prescribing predetermined notions of success
    • SCP does call for clear definitions around who a social enterprise is employing and how this population(s) is being helped
    • SCP does require that costs associated with the social mission be accounted for separately to better understand the cost structure of the enterprise and plan for future growth
    • SCP is interested in supporting and working with social enterprise organizations that see the value in setting up a success measurement framework

Three Main Hypotheses to Test

  • H1: The social enterprise model is the most effective strategy to enable disadvantaged populations to develop sustainable livelihoods for themselves
  • H2: Social enterprises with feasible and scaleable business ideas have the ability to become self-sufficient over a certain period of time
  • H3: Access to employment and paid training will contribute to the decreased need of individual target employees to rely on specific social services over time
  • SCP deploys a Social Return on Investment (SROI) framework to test the above hypotheses

What is SROI?

  • An attempt to quantify the social value being generated by an organization as a result of an investment made in that organization
    • An evaluation strategy to determine what organizations and programs are delivering the ‘best’ social returns
    • Defined as a ‘return’ because it is a result of resources (financial and human) invested
    • Units being measured encompass social and/or environmental impact
    • This approach is gaining popularity as competition for charitable dollars continues to increase and social organizations recognize the need to report on the social value of their work

SROI in the Context of Social Enterprise

    • Robert’s Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) – leader in developing and disseminating learnings regarding: social, economic and socio-economic value of social enterprise
    • SROI evaluation approach lends itself well to social enterprise model in that it encompasses both financial and social outcome areas
    • A key contribution of this approach is the focus on distinguishing between the different costs in a social enterprise to enable managers to better understand where specific costs are coming from
    • Need for social cost accounting in order to reasonably project costs of social support infrastructure now and in the future

Challenges with SROI Approach

    • Overarching challenge is to develop a SROI framework and ultimately a system to function as an integral tool for social enterprise strategic development
    • Want to avoid pitfalls of setting up an evaluation process seen only as an accounting exercise with limited value for decision-making within individual social enterprises
    • SROI as a concept and evaluation strategy is new and evolving and a lot more testing and refining is needed before touting success of this approach
    • Deciding on what social outcomes of target employees to track
    • Creating and establishing an assessment and tracking process that has value for target employees (ie Asset Development Planning) - the nature and needs of different target groups should shape tool development

Process and Methodology

  • First step is to jointly agree on specific strategic issues – for both social and business missions - to address.
  • For the social mission we begin by seeking the answers to the following questions:
  • 1) Who are - or will be - the target employees?
  • 2) How is the social mission currently being managed?
  • 3) How should social mission success be defined?
  • 4) What social support infrastructure is in place?
  • 5) How much should be spent on social costs ?

Learning to Date

  • We want to have a good sense of how viable this model is and understand if employment in a social enterprise assists people to develop sustainable livelihoods
  • Questions Guiding Our Work:
    • What are the best ways to achieve positive social outcomes through the social enterprise model?
    • How should social support infrastructure be packaged and delivered?
    • What are some benchmarks around planning, projecting and managing social costs?
    • Is the social enterprise model more appropriate and/or more successful with particular target groups?
    • What are the differences between those enterprises that offer short term transition employment versus those offering longer term employment with opportunities for advancement?

Thank you

  • Please contact us if you have further inquires at:
  • 416 646 1871 x110 – Joanne Norris
  • For more information, please visit our website:
  • We are utilizing our website to disseminate our investment portfolio SROI Reports and to keep people updated on what we are up to