“Social value is not easily measured and can be difficult to communicate as part of the bottom line to investors, donors or the community at large”.
– Anil Misquith, member of the Board of Trustees of Collective Good Foundation
Every social enterprise works on a specific social mission be it access to digital education for disadvantaged children, improving healthcare for the underserved or providing access to clean energy to rural communities. Whatever be the mission, a social enterprise measures its effectiveness on the impact it creates for its target beneficiaries.
Social impact measurement is now widely used by impact investors and funders to evaluate social enterprises. This is typically a data driven number crunching exercise that needs to be conducted at regular intervals of time. However, on this path of impact creation, a social enterprise is continuously also creating social value, which most often than not is intangible.
Social Impact And Social Value
Social impact is fundamentally about isolating and measuring direct cause-and-effect relationships between a specific set of activities and outcomes. It lends itself to narrow definitions and controlled data capture.
Social value on the other hand is, at its core, cumulative. It is about weaving together a holistic view of what difference has been made to society as a whole. Social value is about a systemic, network effect rather than the isolated impact on a defined set of individuals.
Dom Potter in the article ‘Beyond social impact to social value’
This begs a question. Does measuring or capturing social value differ from measuring social impact? A definite ‘Yes’. This means social enterprises need to think consciously about the social value of their work and showcase it thus. In India, most social enterprises do not carry out comprehensive impact measurement unless they are supported by big funding organizations or impact investors. Capturing social value of their work seems a far cry.
Social Value Manifests Itself In Complex Ways
Let’s say you are a fair trade social enterprise working with women artisans from rural communities in some of the socio economically backward regions of the country. Some of the key impact measurement metrics for you would be number of women artisans trained and enrolled with your organization, increase in average income of women, and perhaps parameters related to productivity of women.
Social value on the other hand comprises abstract and qualitative changes occurring over a period of time. Say there has been a gradual yet definitive elevation in the status of women in their immediate families and village communities. This has perhaps boosted their confidence and they are now able to send their children to better schools. Maybe this is visible in the improvement in grades of children of these women.
We may also observe that in the communities or villages impacted by your organization there has been a unmistakable trend towards higher consumption of more expensive but cleaner LPG fuel. Perhaps there is higher incidence of toilet construction in villages impacted by your organization leading to lower occurrence of communicable diseases.
Social value manifests in many forms and is complex to understand. Social impact measurement can help establish the causality of change with your intervention but it will mostly be unable to understand or capture the multitude of social changes triggered by your work.
A Short Film Is The Best Way For Communicating Social Value
In my earlier article titled ‘Introduce Storytelling In Your Social Impact Measurement’ I have written about how storytelling can introduce dynamism, imagination and provocation in an otherwise data heavy activity. Stories are supplementary to data in impact measurement. However, when you are communicating social value of your impact work, it’s more about seeing and feeling. Stories have a major play here.
Social value is at its most potent when it is thought of as akin to storytelling – providing a narrative for impact which allows us to see beyond distinct events to give us a richer, deeper understanding of not just what happened to whom, but also why it happened and the implications of this.- Dom Potter
The complex interrelation among various developmental aspects amend themselves to storytelling. A short film is the most powerful way to communicate social value. It unravels hidden stories and tells us about the changes in the lives of communities, people and individuals that need to be further accelerated.
Let me illustrate. Below is an infographic of the social impact created by Tarunai Foundation, an NGO in Buldhana district of Maharashtra. It is designed for its potential funders and supporters.
Here is a short film on their work in Salaiban. It is about the concerted and grounds up endeavour of tribals of Salaiban in northern Maharashtra to change their lives, led by a man who relies on strength of passion, purpose, physical labour and affinity to the locals to bring it about. This film tries to communicate how a lone changemaker is creating social value for the people of local communities.
What is more powerful? Infographic or the Short film?