Read our June 2014 Newsletter

SIAA’s June newsletter is here! This month we invite you to participate in our Talking Data seminar and webinars and remind you to get your early bird conference ticket, along with plenty of social impact news and events. – take a look.

Interested in receiving a monthly email giving you a round up on all things social impact? Why not sign up for our newsletter.

Read our May 2014 Newsletter

SIAA’s May newsletter is here! This month we introduce you to the theme of our 2014 annual conference, invite you to participate in our Talking Data webinar series and remind you to get your early bird conference ticket, along with plenty of social impact news and events. – take a look.

Interested in receiving a monthly email giving you a round up on all things social impact? Why not sign up for our newsletter.

Guest Blog: How does Action for Children show it makes people’s lives better?

How does Action for Children show it makes people’s lives better?

by Hannah Dobbin, Policy Manager, Action for Children

Each year Action for Children publishes our Impact Report. And each year we develop our approach to reporting the difference we make to people’s lives. I’d like to share with you what we’ve done this year.

 ‘I feel proud of myself… I’m now able to support my family and my child’

Iain, who completed our Youthbuild programme.

Over the past year, we’ve made life better for 300,000 people: children, young people, their parents and carers. Our Impact Report tells our story and explains how we help and how we measure our positive impact on people’s lives.

This year we have continued to focus on how we improve outcomes for children and young people, but we’ve included more on how we work with parents and carers to achieve this:

‘I have a much better relationship with my son, I have taken control back and managed to hold down my job.’

Karen talking about one of our Intensive Family Support services.

We have a strong focus on our innovation and how we replicate what we know works best in helping children and families across our UK services. For example, our successful delivery of evidence-based programmes and services funded by social investment. We also talk about how we scale up new services based on the evidence of their impact.

We demonstrate the difference we make using our own outcomes framework and reporting systems. Data from all our services across the UK shows that:

 ·       In 71% of cases, relationships between children and their parents or carers improved and the risk of family breakdown reduced

·       In 70% of cases, the child or young person’s relationships improved, with people who were important to them

·       In 70% of cases, the child’s mental health or emotional wellbeing improved

We will continue to develop the way we measure our impact, for example using evidence-based tools to show the progress children have made. Please read our Impact Report 2014 to find out more:

 Making their lives better: now, tomorrow and every day.

Hannah Dobbin is Policy Manager at Action for Children.

Find out more about Action for Children’s Impact Report 2014 here.



Introducing Talking Data: Measurement with a message

Introducing Talking Data: Measurement with a message

by Eleanor Radford, SIAA

Last week we announced the theme for our 2014 annual conference and we, at SIAA HQ, are very excited about it. Talking Data: Measurement with a message invites delegates working in the field of social impact measurement and analysis to come together for two days of workshops, hotspots and networking. We will be talking about how we can make our measurements deliver the right message with the most impact.

Building on the success of our 2013 annual conference, Beyond Measurement, it was important to choose a theme that kept the momentum going and addressed some of the unanswered questions. One such question, raised by John Gargani, Gargani + Company, was how do we communicate the impact data we collect? He explains that standards for communicating data are still evolving, which is “driven by a belief that better communication leads to more effective use of impact findings.” It is certainly hard to understate the value of communicating the data we collect well. Whilst we always communicate impact with a purpose, the effectiveness of that communication rests on many other aspects.

When considering these other factors, it is important to think about who we are talking to and how we can influence them. Do we write the same report for external stakeholders and internal decision makers? Of course, what is material will change depending on who the report is targeting. For the SROI Network, materiality is defined as “[determining] what information and evidence must be included in the accounts to give a true and fair picture, such that stakeholders can draw reasonable conclusions about impact.” Yet different reports will influence different readers in different ways. So if we are changing the content of a social impact report for our audience, how do we decide what to include?

Greg Thomson, Charity Intelligence Canada, argued, in a blog for SIAA, the importance of knowing what goes in a report for charities to receive funding. He wrote, “Our report on Social Results Reporting shows that we were only able to find 34% of the information that we would like to see.” He asserts that either they are not reporting externally on the data they collect for internal decision making or they are not collecting the right information. Perhaps, then, it is apt to talk about the extent to which methodology determines what goes in a report and what standards for reporting impact look like.

By bringing together delegates from across the field, we will be able to address questions of materiality, reporting standards and how we ensure that measurements deliver the right message. Talking Data will open up international discussion and inspire our delegates to explore new ideas and hone in on some important issues. Together we can not only get data talking but shouting from the rooftops.

Interested in being involved? Click here to find out about contributing, click here for tickets or contact us for more information.


The Social Impact Analysts Association‘s (SIAA) 2014 Annual Conference, Talking Data: Measurement with a message, will be held in Toronto on November 3rd – 4th in partnership with Social Asset Measurements and Charity Intelligence Canada. Tickets are now on sale!

Read our April 2014 Newsletter

SIAA’s April newsletter is here! This month we invite you join a new SIAA Working Group, give you an update on SIAA Country Impact Groups and our annual conference, and bring you social impact news and events from across the sector – take a look.

Interested in receiving a monthly email giving you a round up on all things social impact? Why not sign up for our newsletter.

Read our March 2014 Newsletter

SIAA’s March newsletter is here! This month we invite you attend a workshop with SIAA, highlight a report on Social Impact Strategies for Banks and bring you plenty of impact news – take a look.

Interested in receiving a monthly email giving you a round up on all things social impact? Why not sign up for our newsletter.

Are the big players finally interested in social impact? A New Report from EVPA - Social Impact Strategies for Banks

Are the big players finally interested in social impact?

A New Report from EVPA - Social Impact Strategies for Banks

by Ruth Whateley, SIAA Manager

Last Tuesday saw the launch event of a new EVPA report ‘Social Impact Strategies for Banks- Venture Philanthropy and Social Investment’ by Dr Leonora Buckland supported by London Business School. The report provides the first guide as to how European banks are currently active in venture philanthropy, social investment and impact investment. Ruth Whateley Manager of the Social Impact Analysts Association reports on the event.

Why was I there?

I would like to say I attended this launch event with an open mind, but if I’m honest I’ve always been a bit sceptical of big banks and some of the ethically questionable practice taking place (to put it mildly). However I’m also sure the situation isn’t clear cut. What if I told you large investments from banks are being directed to essential lifesaving social and environmental projects? Would that make you think twice about the role banks play? Certainly I was intrigued by the title of the report, particularly given my work at the Social Impact Analysts Association (SIAA).

What are banks doing?

The total investment in social enterprise/social business by the mainstream banks surveyed in this report was €261 million (excluding microfinance funds).[1] These banks range from retail banks such as BBVA in Spain to investment banks such as J.P. Morgan and private banks such as UBS. The banks in the report have made some significant steps towards integrating a social dimension within their core business model and not just their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes. For example J.P. Morgan and the Gates Foundation launched the Global Health Investment Fund of $100m in 2013 and BBVA’s Momentum social investment project has been investing €2.5m in Spanish social enterprises since 2011. The report outlined how the model of banking (retail, private or investment) can influence the type of involvement that banks can have in social impact investment as leaders/field builders, investors or intermediaries. The investor activity includes both internal venturing and external investing through direct or indirect funds and deals.

Why are banks involved?

Representatives from J.P. Morgan and Deutsche Bank on the panel identified with the variety of drivers for involvement in this field. These drivers include client demand, competitor advantage, personal belief, bank ethic and CSR interest. For me this point was very interesting. I perceive a real fear in the social sector that a private investor’s financial mission will continue to trump the social mission of the investment. And if we want to create significant positive social impact for the most at need in our society I think this should continue to be a worry. From both the event and the report it appears that one of the significant barriers to this re-prioritisation of social and financial mission is organisational culture. The report identifies that banks have much to contribute in the way of human, financial and social capital. However it hints that organisational culture must change for this work to be successful and I think it will only change by attracting more workers with social sector experience into the banking sector. This must happen alongside collaborations between banks and social sector organisations such as foundations.

Creating social impact

Another important point flagged was that social impact investment is only one way banks can create social impact. Bank involvement in grant making and other forms of philanthropy is still hugely important and should remain so for interventions that are not appropriate for social investment. Furthermore panellists mentioned if banks are serious about social impact they need to start forecasting for, measuring and analysing social impact as an integrated part of the investment process, something with which I whole heartily agree. International network organisations such as SIAA, The SROI Network, Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) and EVPA should also continue to be championing and supporting the impact measurement and analysis cause. As understanding impact and targeting investments to social causes is supposed to be at the heart of what social impact investment is about.

What does success look like?

At the event I heard mixed messages about what success looks like for social impact strategies in banks. For some establishing a fund and convincing enough colleagues that it is worthwhile is success. For others success is something that may happen beyond our lifetimes, when banks truly take social and environmental impact into account during their work, as well as financial returns. This second view of what success looks like sits well with me, however radical some people may feel it is. I think it is still an open-ended question as to whether European banks are truly moving towards considering social and environmental impact in their core business. I really hope they are.

[1] Includes Deutsche Bank UK Impact Investment Fund; J.P.Morgan Social Finance Unit Fund; BBVA social enterprise financing through Momentum Project 2011 and 2012; BNP Paribas; ABN Amro Social Impact Fund; UBS Impact Investment Fund; LGT Impact Ventures Fund UK and Erste Bank social enterprise financing.

This blog was originally posted on Alliance Magazine and is available here.

Guest Blog: How do we classify our outcomes and impact indicators?

How do we classify our outcomes and impact indicators?

by Gina Mankin, Estonian Social Enterprise Network

Classifications are boring.

That’s what I thought when I started my impact measurement project with the Estonian Social Enterprise Network 6 months ago. And then I found out that the right classification can save A LOT of time. Time I can spend with my family and friends or on getting more work done. Now, I love finding better classifications.

That’s why I would like to start a discussion with you that would help us all classify our outcomes/ impact indicators better. I’ll start by sharing “the Estonian” experience.

In the framework of our impact measurement project, we recently put together a list of possible outcomes/ impact indicators for Estonian social enterprises. As we thought about possible ways to categorize these indicators, our first thought was “Let’s sort them by sector”. Several international experts recommended the International Classification of Non Profit Organizations (ICNPO) as a basis for this sector-based classification. When we tried applying the ICNPO in the Estonian context a couple of problems occurred.

The category “development and housing”, which includes “community and neighborhood organizations, economic development, social development, housing associations and assistance, job training programs, vocational counselling and guidance, vocational rehabilitation and sheltered workshops”, makes little sense for the Estonian social entrepreneurship scene. The term “development” as well as subcategories such as “social development” are simply too abstract. Also, it would make sense to remove the subcategories “job training program” and “vocational counselling and rehabilitation” to form an independent category for creating or keeping jobs, because a big share of social enterprises in Estonia provide disadvantaged population groups with job training and employment. Some examples are Abikäsi, Merimetsa Tugikeskus, Aktiviseerimis-keskus Tulevik, Töötahe and Eesti Pimemassööride Ühing.

The “levels of impact” classification (individual, family, organization, community, society) by Ellis and colleagues turned out to be way more useful:

However, working with the Estonian social enterprises has taught us that it makes more sense to leave out the “society” level. First, social enterprises are then more likely to formulate more specific and realistic impact indicators on the individual, family, community and organizational level. Secondly, most impact on the society level can also be measured on the individual or community level. For example, if the government decides to increase the amount of financial assistance paid to students, then the impact of the decision can be measured on an individual and family level.

Another classification turned out to be very useful for our list of outcomes/ impact indicators was the “change in…” classification, also by Ellis and colleagues (examples added by us).

For us, it made sense to split up the “wellbeing” category into “physical well-being” and “mental well-being” and to rename “attitudes and feelings” into “attitudes”, since “feelings” fit better into “mental well-being”.

That’s how far we’ve come. Now, let’s find better classifications for all of us. How do you think we should classify our outcomes/ impact indicators? Join the discussion by commenting on this blog post, via Facebook or contact us directly, we would love your feedback on the project results and how we could develop them. Also, if you’d like to develop something bigger in the framework of an international project, we’d be interested in your ideas!

About the author:

Gina Mankin was project manager for the Estonian Social Enterprise Network’s most recent the impact measurement project. For her, the most interesting challenge was to let go of some scientific expectations that simply weren’t feasible for small social enterprises with very limited (human/ financial) resources. Together with the social enterprises and Jaan Aps, she found creative alternatives of illustrating social change that don’t require that many resources. Jaan Aps leads the Estonian Social Enterprise Network and is CEO of a social business called Stories For Impact, which provides solutions for identifying, evaluating and communicating societal impact.

About the research: 

Typically for many social-purpose organizations, Estonian social enterprises tend to be limited by a lack of human and financial resources. Most available impact measurement techniques are not designed for smaller organizations with two to six employees and would overburden Estonian social enterprises for relatively little gain. Moreover, they struggle with the selection of impact or outcome indicators.

From September 2013 to February 2014, the Estonian Social Enterprise Network carried out an impact measurement project to help Estonian social enterprises overcome these obstacles by providing them with a list of possible outcome and impact measurement indicators as well as a manual including “tips and tricks” for outcome and impact measurement.

Among other things, the list of indicators and the collection of “tips and tricks” for outcome and impact measurement are based on a small-scale top-down and bottom-up study. The aim of these studies was to reveal, which outcomes/impact indicators investors currently expect from social enterprises, indicators investors use internally, indicators social enterprises and NGOs use themselves to illustrate their impact. To find out more about this project and its results, click here.


Read our February 2014 Newsletter

SIAA’s February newsletter is here! This month we are giving you some very important dates for your diary and talking about tools for philanthropy - take a look.

Interested in receiving a monthly email giving you a round up on all things social impact? Why not sign up for our newsletter.


Guest Blog: Easy ways for philanthropic donors to see if they’re doing well

Easy ways for philanthropic donors to see if they’re doing well

by Caroline Fiennes, Giving Evidence

Some skiers are better than others. Some singers are better than others. The same for teaching, nursing and curling. So it seems reasonable to suppose that some people are better at supporting charities than others.

But how do you tell? Curlers can easily see if they beat their opponents, and surgeons see if patients live or die, but success in philanthropy is less evident. Whereas businesses get feedback immediately and constantly – unpopular or over-priced products don’t sell – donors don’t. They can’t rely on charities telling them since they’re daren’t bite the hand that feeds them. Steve Jobs cited the difficulty of knowing if you’re giving well or badly as deterring him from giving much at all.

Happily, it is possible – and not terribly hard. Giving Evidence, a consultancy and campaign which helps donors to give well by using sound evidence, has found various tools which help almost any donor to understand their performance. They’re collated in a new white paper, and are simple: they may even seem rather obvious, but have proven useful to individuals, companies, and foundations who give. They are:

  • Monitoring the ‘success rate’: the proportion of your gifts which do well, do alright and which fail. Though clearly the definition of success varies between grants, presumably each one is made with some purpose: this tool simply asks how many succeed in their own terms. It’s unashamedly a basic measure, but then it’s hard to argue that a funder is succeeding if barely any of its grants succeed. We’re not saying that every grant should succeed: many funders sensibly support experimental or exploratory work, but, like venture capitalists, donors should expect some failures, though should have some system for noticing which grants those are to enable learning from the patterns. The Shell Foundation (attached to the energy company) used this measure to triple its success.
  • Tracking whether ‘the patient is getting better’: whether biodiversity is increasing around the lake, or whether malaria is becoming less prevalent. This of course indicates nothing about why anything is changing nor the donor’s contribution. Nonetheless, it’s imperative to know if the problem is worsening – in which case, we might re-double our efforts or invite other funders in – or if it’s gone away. Often data from public or commercial sources shows progress on a funder’s goals.
  • Measure the costs created for charities (and others) by the funder’s application and reporting processes. These can be huge: as a charity CEO myself, I had some grants where the donor’s processes consumed 90% of the grant given. It can be even worse: a physicist at Colombia University calculates that some grants leave his lab worse off, and we’ve heard stories of application processes which cost twice the amount eventually given.  Grantees may make great progress despite a meddlesome funder. The avoidable costs from application and reporting processes in the UK alone are estimated at about £400m every single year. BBC Children in Need has examined its process and found ways to make savings, and other large donors can too.
  • Hearing what your grantees think. When I ran a charity, I often saw ways that donors could be more helpful but never told them because the stakes are too high: charities can’t risk offending people whose help they may need in future. So the learning is lost. Yet listening to grantees and beneficiaries has brought great benefits in medicine and social services – and to many philanthropic donors.
  • Lastly, clarify what you’re learning, and tell others. Funders do publish, but mainly about their successes. ‘Publication bias’ in medicine in which positive stories are disproportionately likely to be shared means that ‘the true effects of loads of prescribed medicines are essentially unknown’, according to epidemiologist Dr Ben Goldacre. Philanthropy can avoid the same fate. We’re currently working with a foundation to clarify and publish the ‘whole truth’ about how an innovative programme fared. Tales of failure and challenges, however inglorious, teach us a great deal.

Perhaps ‘measuring impact’ is too hard and too off-putting, and we should all instead talk about ‘understanding performance’. The tools in this white paper help with that. Giving Evidence is working with donors on several of them, and will happily talk to anybody about them.

Caroline Fiennes is director of Giving Evidence, a consultancy and campaign promoting charitable giving based on evidence. She is author of It Ain’t What You Give, It’s The Way That You Give It, and serves on boards of The Cochrane Collaboration, the US Center for Effective Philanthropy, and Charity Navigator, the world’s largest charity ratings agency. Follow @carolinefiennes on Twitter

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