Measuring Social Value

Impact measurement and quality

With recent changes in contracting [See Contracts and SLA] and the austerity cuts, community and social enterprises are being asked to prove that they are value for money [VFM]. Organisations are no longer able to just quote the rhetoric that ‘we are serving the most vulnerable’. We need now to prove that the services are high quality and have an impact on the individuals for the better. Here we consider the main points of impact measurement and quality.

Quality is key to any business survival, most businesses need to ensure their customers have a quality experience, that way they’re likely to achieve repeat business. The PARETO principle also known as the 80/20 rule is something to consider here.

PARETO noted that in most businesses environments whether service related or product based that 80% of business comes from just 20% of customers. That is once you’ve gained a customer and ensured they have received a quality service they are likely to give you repeat business.

Think about it from your own perspective – you probably have a favourite supermarket where you buy the majority of your food, you probably get most of your clothes from one or two retailers, you most likely use the same insurance broker [because it’s easier], you probably don’t change your energy supplier very often. Consider what makes you go back time and time again? It’s likely to be because you get a good service, you feel the value is good and the products are enhanced and upgraded every so often. All these points are about quality.

You may also want to consider what would make you not buy from a company? It is likely to be a poor customer experience, poor quality product with low value and so on.

It’s a lot easier to sell an enhanced product [or service] to an already loyal customer. Apple have proved that concept over and over again. Third sector organisations need to be aware of these principles and ensure that we continue to provide quality and gain repeat business.

But how do we prove and measure impact with our limited resources? It is true there are now a number of holistic measurement tools such as Social Accounting and Auditing and Social Return on Investment, but many organisations simply do not have the capacity to work through the complexities of each. However, we do recommend that if you can embed the principles of these methodologies it will become much easier in future years to measure your organisation’s impact.

First and foremost it’s back to the question, what are you trying to achieve? Having an understanding of why and how you will need to measure impact or improve quality is the starting point.

For example, are there industry specific quality standards that you need? If you are aiming to tender for public contracts there will be a number of specific quality measures listed within the tendering documentation. This is a good starting point to work out where your effort should be spent.

If you are working in an educational setting you may need to ensure that you meet OFSTED standards. Similarly, if you are providing care for vulnerable people you’ll need to meet quality care standards and safeguarding standards. However, if you are providing young people with careers guidance then the MATRIX Quality Mark is one that you may need.

To ensure you are working well as an organisation there are some good quality standards that have been developed for example:

Quality First is an organisational quality framework designed for small groups mainly operating as volunteers, it’s also known as baby PQASSO, which stands for Practical Quality Assurance System of Small Organisations.

As a social enterprise you may decide that it is important to achieve the Social Enterprise Mark which demonstrates and proves you’re operating within a social enterprise framework i.e. trading, assets locked and re-investing your profits.

No wonder with all these quality marks and measurement tools it’s difficult to know where to start, but helpfully the New Economics Foundation [NEF] have done a lot of the hard work in this area, see below.