Philanthropy Scope - The Journal of Philanthropy Ireland: ‘Measuring Impact’

by Claire Coulier

To read the article as originally published in  Philanthropy Scope and go to page 6 of the publication.

Social impact assessment is a hot topic at the moment. To name but a few of the latest developments, social impact funds are being launched by big banks internationally; the Social Value Bill is going through the United Kingdom’s House of Lords and is a few steps away from being enacted; and mission driven organisations – from non-profit organisations to foundations and socially responsible businesses – who have a larger role than ever in delivering public services, are now under increasing pressure to demonstrate their value for money to funders, investors and the wider public alike.

Though there are indications of emerging consensus around certain aspects of social impact analysis, the practice remains largely fragmented and is often of a varying standard. The emergence of numerous new methodologies and approaches, often complex, and the fact that social impact expertise and skills remain scattered across a wide range of sectors, makes it difficult to agree a common set of approaches or to set standards for reporting or assessment. There are few opportunities for sharing knowledge and information about how best to conduct social impact analysis, or how to put the results to use within an organisation. And social impact analysis as a profession remains little known, unregulated and unsupported.

The Social Impact Analysts Association (SIAA) has been set up to help solve these problems, supported by a consortium of funders including the Adessium Foundation in the Netherlands, Bertelsmann Stiftung in Germany, New Philanthropy Capital in the UK and PricewaterhouseCoopers Germany. We are an international professional body that supports and connects all those involved in social impact analysis. SIAA’s purpose is to be a hub for those involved in social impact analysis internationally and across different policy areas, to improve the flow of information about social impact analysis and to help our members learn from one another. We aim to share knowledge of social impact analysis and raise awareness of it as a new profession.

SIAA was launched at an ‘unconference’ in December 2011, in which we asked our members and participants to set the day’s agenda. The day ran as a series of open-ended workshops in which delegates identified the most pressing problems we face in practicing social impact analysis; discussed how SIAA and others can help address these issues, for instance through working groups, bespoke research or partnership working between existing initiatives; and committed to working towards these solutions together. We wanted to create a setting in which our members and other thought leaders on social impact could genuinely interact with others and shape the agenda, both on the day and for SIAA going forward. This is because our members are the real brains behind SIAA. They are the ones with the experience and expertise to define what good practice of social impact analysis looks like, internationally and across different sectors.

At the launch, our members told us they wanted more networking opportunities, a chance to exchange knowledge with other professionals in this field and to learn from developments in different sub-sectors and different countries, and that they wanted to be represented as social impact analysts.Since then, SIAA’s focus has been on engaging with members and developing the practical, professional support they need, as well as raising awareness of social impact analysis, its benefits and limitations. SIAA members benefit from the following services, among others:

  • Regular networking and discussion events, which are free to attend and hosted by SIAA partners across Europe and internationally;
  • An online community where members can find and interact with likeminded professionals and access the latest sector news and information
  • A monthly newsletter and regular social media updates.
  • Opportunities to share work and learning via member-driven working groups
  • Discounted access to SIAA’s annual conference, an excellent networking opportunity with over 100 sector leaders in attendance

Although still in its early stages, the association has already attracted over 120 members from around the globe, ranging from  charities, university departments and third-sector support bodies to grant-makers and large corporations. A full list of our current membership and profiles of selected founding members are available online here. We warmly invite you to join the conversation.

For more information or to get involved, please get in touch at [email protected] or via



Post published: Thursday, May 24th, 2012. Categories: SIAA in the Media.

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