Resources » Topic » Social Return on Investment (SROI)

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Books and Guides

This resource provides an overview of different tools and resources, with links to further information, that nef consulting uses for evaluating and assessing impact. These include:

- Social Return on Investment (SROI)
- Multi-Criteria Appraisal (MCA)
- Outcomes Evaluation
- Cost-Effectiveness Analysis (CEA)
- Social Cost-Benefit Analysis (SCBA)
- Social Value Appraisal
- Local Multiplier 3 (LM3)
- Prove and Improve Toolkits

Since 2007, Social Ventures Australia (SVA) Consulting has completed over 400 projects with over 200 organisations across employment, education, community services, health and indigenous affairs. The SVA Consulting Quarterly brings together what they have learned from their work and the insights they have gained in new practices, novel methodologies and fresh wisdom.

This paper, by Daniel Fujiwara for HACT, sets out the methodology and analytical approach underlying the work on community investment and social value. The paper explains the Well-being Valuation approach, provides details of the datasets that the analysis draws on, describes the statistical method in technical detail, and introduces the broader theory behind social impact.

The SROI Guide from The SROI Network, and related supplements provided, sets out a step by step approach to completing an analysis of social return. Essentially SROI maps out the value of your work using a set of principles.

The guide includes
- Social Return on Investment for social investing
- Social Return on Investment and commissioning
- Social Return on Investment - an introduction

Everyone acting in or for the Third Sector now recognise the importance of measuring impact. The key question has now become: how to do it efficiently?

There are many ways to create and embed a successful impact measurement system within a specific project or an organisation, using highly customised tools, or more standardised one. The Social E-valuator is one of the latter. Thanks to its web-based tool, it supports organisations throughout the process of analysing and evaluating social impact. Social E-valuator makes social impact measurement better accessible, cost-efficient and enables organisations to report about impact in a consistent way.

This free webinar introduced impact measurement using the Social E-valuator tool. The webinar lasted an hour, during which Stone Soup briefly introduced the topic, and a case study based on the company “Philips” - The Philips Employment Scheme (WGP) - was used by Social E-valuator to illustrate how to measure impact and how to use Social Evaluator tool to do so.

The SROI Network have developed a timeline so that you can learn about the development of the SROI methodology and a short history of The SROI Network.

The Practical Guide is a resource that distills best practice in impact measurement into five easy-to-understand steps and provides practical tips and recommendations for how to implement impact measurement at the level of the social investor and in the social sector organisations that they support.

The Good Investor, authored by Adrian Hornsby and Gabi Blumberg, is a guide for investors who make investments into companies, organisations and funds to generate measurable social and environmental impact. This guide is structured around incorporating impact assessment into the various stages of the investment process, progressing from the investors’ initial exposure to investment opportunities, through the screening and analysis, and onto making investment decisions, monitoring and evaluating, and reporting on the impact achieved.

These documents explain the relationship between Social Return on Investment (SROI) and 1) Social Accounting and Audit (SAA), 2) GIIRS Ratings & Analytics (“GIIRS” stands for the Global Impact Investing Ratings System) a comprehensive, comparable, and transparent system for assessing the social and environmental impact of companies and funds with a ratings and analytics approach analogous to Morningstar investment rankings, and 3) IRIS (Impact Reporting and Investment Standards) standardized performance indicators to help an organization understand its impact in a credible and comparable way.

This guide from Quality Matters provides an introduction to three commonly used methods for planning impact measurement for social service organisations: Logic Model, Theory of Change and Social Return on Investment (SROI). The aim of the guide is to provide readers with sufficient information to understand these models and select one that will most suit the needs of their organisation.

This short handbook by Juliet Michaelson on measuring well-being is produced by the Centre for Well-being at nef (the new economics foundation) with input from nef consulting. It is designed primarily for voluntary organisations and community groups delivering projects and services, to help them kick-start the process of measuring well-being outcomes.

This paper, by Andrea Westall for NAVCA’s Local Commissioning and Procurement Unit, provides an overview of the different tools and approaches that are being used and developed for measuring and evidencing how charities and community
groups create social value, and discusses the implications for these organisations.

This guide from the SROI Network is an updated version of the 2009 Guide to SROI that was published by the Cabinet Office. There are no changes to the principles or methodology used to apply those principles within the framework.

The purpose of the update is to amend the language used so that it is more relevant for international audiences and for different sectors and types of organisations.

This document from the SROI Network details the seven principles of Social Return on Investment (SROI).

This guide is part of the Cabinet Office and Scottish Government programme to support SROI, including the development of a database of indicators to support SROI analysis. The purpose of this guide is to standardise practice, develop the methodology, and provide more clarity on the use of SROI. It has been written for people who want to measure and analyse the social, environmental and economic value being generated by their activities or by the activities they are funding
or commissioning.

This is the first catalog of methods for the Double Bottom Line Project that for-profit and nonprofit social ventures and enterprises can use to assess the social impact of their activities. It analyses feasibility and credibility of 9 methods and provides examples of them in use:

- Theories of Change
- Balanced Scorecard
- Acumen Fund Scorecard
- Social Return Assessment
- AtKisson Compass Assessment
- Ongoing Assessment of Social Impact
- Social Return on Investment
- Benefit-Cost Analysis
- Poverty and Social Impact Analysis

Case Studies

These case studies from Social Audit Network are intended to share experiences between organisations working in the social economy around their social impact reporting, and also to share with local authority commissioning and procurement staff to show them what can be achieved! The case studies are not just about social accounting and audit (SAA), but include where organisations have used SAA as a framework alongside social return on investment (SROI), cost benefit analysis (CBA), and other tools.

Event Reports

On March 26, 2003, The Goldman Sachs Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation hosted over fifty funders at Goldman Sachs offices in New York to discuss the issues surrounding assessing social impact and social return on investment (“SROI”). We were pleased with the high level of interest in this topic and the insights articulated during the day’s discussions. Our focus was on two thematic fields: education/youth development and community development/employment.
The purpose of the meeting was twofold:
- To convene a cross-section of charitable and double bottom line funders to discuss and learn from various approaches to assessing social impact and social return on investment in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors
- To begin a dialogue on developing a common set of expectations for metrics or standards that could be used in the education/youth development and community development/employment sectors to assess the social impact of philanthropic and other social purpose investments.

External Databases and Resources

The Global Value Exchange is an open source database of Values, Outcomes, Indicators and Stakeholders. It provides a free platform for information to be shared enabling greater consistency and transparency in measuring social & environmental values. The site empowers users by giving them a voice to share their experiences and allow them to become the ‘creators of knowledge’.

More than 6400 publications have now been selected by TSRC for inclusion in the Third Sector Knowledge Portal - an easy-to-use online library of research, evidence, and analysis.

It has been developed by TSRC in partnership with the British Library and the Big Lottery Fund, and brings together over 6000 works such as: impact reports from third sector organisations; academic research projects; government studies; and more, in one collection of downloads, links and summaries.

The Big Society Capital resources provide information and tools for understanding social investment. Information is included in the following categories: Why is social investment beneficial?, How do organisations use social investment?, Types of social investment, The social investment market and How to become a social investor.

This is a useful guide to Social Return on Investment (SROI) from Social E-valuator. SROI is an approach to understanding and managing the value of the social, economic and environmental outcomes created by an activity or an organisation.
This resource centre contains an introduction, guides, principles, myths and challenges and links to other organisations of interest.

Impact Reports

NOW provides training and employment services for people of all abilities. This is a social impact infographic card for their activities from 2012 to 2013.

This is a social impact report by Gingerbread in partnership with nef consulting, the social enterprise of nef (the new economics foundation). Together they developed a theory of change in 2010 which enabled them to build an outcomes framework to measure these changes and assess how much is due to Gingerbread’s work, and a Social Return on Investment (SROI) model that would enable them to put a monetary value on this work.

This Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis from nef consulting was commissioned by Christian Aid for the Filling the Gaps project in Kenya. This project designed to improve the demand-side factors necessary to achieve the successful adherence of PWHIV (people living with HIV) to their ARTs (anti-retroviral therapies) thus improving their quality of life.

This report by Joëlle Bradly for Leicestershire County Council uses the Social Return on Investment (SROI) methodology to explore the value of the Community Safer Sex Project (CSSP) in terms of who is affected by the project and what changes for them. The Community Safer Sex Project (CSSP) was established in 2001 to support the emerging Teenage Pregnancy Strategy. This SROI evaluation of CSSP found that for each £1 invested in CSSP supporting Connexions Leicester Shire to deliver sexual health services between approximately £7 and £9 is returned in social value. Through measuring and valuing the social and economic benefits of CSSP, the following outcomes were found to create the largest value:

- Reduction in teenage pregnancies for young people
- Young people make more informed proactive choices
- Reduced cost to public services of a teenage pregnancy
- Better support for young people taking risks reduces the cost of disengaged young people
- Improved access to emotional support for young people

This research study, carried out by Rick Rijsdijk of the Social Value Lab, examines the impact of the Vineburgh Development, a phased £37 million project being delivered over five years by Cunninghame Housing Association. Based on a Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis, the research shows the considerable impact that housing led physical regeneration can have on the health, confidence, pride and general wellbeing of tenants. It has revealed significant positive effects not just on the tenants of these new homes, but also on the wider community of Vineburgh and other local stakeholders.

The NPO competence centre of the University of Economics of Vienna was tasked by Coca-Cola Austria with the Evaluation of the project “Initial Housing Aid - a project of the Vöcklabruck poverty network”. The project was awarded the first prize in 2010 under the initiative “Ideas against Poverty”. The “Ideas against Poverty” innovation prize was initiated in 2007 by Coca-Cola Austria together with “Der Standard” and the NPO competence centre. Its aim is to support the implementation of projects in the area of poverty alleviation and prevention in Austria by an initial financial aid.

The evaluation was done by way of a Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis with the goal of assessing the added value for society generated by the project in an as comprehensive as possible manner.

The NPO Institute, Competence Centre for Non-Profit Organisations, was tasked by the Essl Foundation with the evaluation of the “Casa Abraham” project. The project, which was launched by Father Georg Sporschill, received the Essl Social Prize in 2008, which awards sustainable support and assistance for people in distress.

The evaluation was done by way of a Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis with the goal of assessing the added value for society generated by the project in an as comprehensive as possible manner.

Fifteen London is a social enterprise restaurant based in East London, which runs an apprentice programme for young people in need of a second chance in life. This study by Just Economics forecasts the social value created by Fifteen London for the 2009/10 financial year.

Speakeasy is a sexual health project that offers courses to parents to help them acquire the knowledge and confidence to communicate with their children about sex. The project has been running since 2002. Since 2006 Speakeasy has been supported with central funding from the Department for Education.

The FPA, the independent national charity which administers the programme, commissioned RM Insight to conduct a forecasted Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis in order to quantify the social value created by Speakeasy in England for the 2010/11 financial year.

This SROI analysis by NPO Competence Center was based on the model developed by the New Economics Foundation and explored the entire fire brigade system in Upper Austria in 2010.

The NPO Institute, competence centre for non-profit organisations, was tasked by the Coca-Cola Austria with the evaluation of the project “Donate your old washing machine! The ecological-social redistribution of washing machines and dishwashers”. Under the initiative “Ideas against Poverty”, the project was awarded the first prize in 2009. The “Ideas against Poverty” innovation prize was initiated in 2007 by Coca-Cola Austria together with Der Standard and the NPO Institute at the WU Vienna. Its aim is to support the implementation of projects in the area of poverty alleviation and prevention in Austria by an initial financial aid.

The evaluation was done by way of a Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis with the goal of assessing the added value for society generated by the project in an as comprehensive as possible manner.

Opinion and Comment

In this blog from the SROI Network, Jeremy Nicholls discusses the relationship between the logic model or log frame approach, for example as also used in approaches like Results Based Accountability, and Social Return On Investment (SROI).

Geoff Mulgan, director of the Young Foundation, discusses the lack of consensus on what social value is and how to assess it despite the evident enthusiasm from funders, nonprofit executives and policymakers. he argues that when people approach social value as subjective, malleable, and variable, they create better metrics to capture it.


Michael Weatherhead from new economics foundation (nef) talks about a research project carried out for Christian Aid on their Filling the Gaps project in Kenya, funded by Comic Relief, using a Social Return On Investment (SROI) approach.

Working Papers and Research

Ziel dieses Working Papers ist die Betrachtung der derzeit populären Konzepte des Social Impact Measurements und insbesondere der SROI-Analyse vor dem Hintergrund bereits länger bestehenden Konzepte der (ökonomischen) Evaluation. In Anknüpfung daran wird das logische Modell bzw. die Wirkungskette, als Grundlage für Evaluation und quasi als Pendant dazu, die „Theory of Change“, die im Stiftungs-Bereich propagiert wird, thematisiert. Als eine spezielle Methode des Social Impact Measurements, die jedoch ebenso den Cost Benefit-Analysen der ökonomischen Evaluation zugerechnet werden kann, wird schließlich auf die SROI-Analyse mit ihren Vorteilen und Chancen sowie Nachteilen und Schwächen eingegangen.

This working paper from Olivia Rauscher, Christian Schober, Reinhard Millner and the NPO Competence Centre aims to analyse the popular concepts of social impact measurement and, in particular, of the SROI analysis against the background of concepts of (economic) evaluation that have been known and applied for a long time already. In this connection, the logic model or the impact chain, as the basis for an evaluation and, so to say as its counterpart, the “theory of change”, which is playing an increasingly important role in the area of foundations, is discussed. Finally, the SROI analysis with its advantages/opportunities and disadvantages/weaknesses, is examined as a special method of social impact measurement, which, however, can also be placed under the category of cost benefit analyses of economic evaluation.

This paper by Daniel Fujiwara from the LSE launches a national discussion on identifying the evidence needs to prove the impact of adult learning for decision making at local and national level. This piece of research flows from two pieces of NIACE work: on behalf of the Local Government Association exploring the changing strategic role of adult learning and skills in communities; and our work for the Skills Funding Agency completing Social Return on Investment (SROI) analyses with a sample of Adult and Community Learning Funding projects, in partnership with the SROI Network. Using the Well-being Valuation (WV) approach, this paper shows that adult learning adds value to many wider agendas.

This paper, written by Andrea Westall, an Associate Fellow of the Third Sector Research Centre and a Strategy and Policy Consultant, provides an overview of the different tools and approaches that are being used and developed and discusses the implications for smaller organisations. NAVCA’s Local Commissioning and Procurement Unit provide practical information, advice and guidance on public service delivery by voluntary sector organisations in communities across England.

This report from the Centre for Social Justice is a policy report from the Social Return on Investment (SROI) Working Group chaired by Dr Stephen Brien. It argues that a core aim of government is to improve social outcomes; yet for most government expenditure the real value of outcomes is rarely considered or even understood. It shows recent governments to have placed more emphasis on the management and monitoring of public services, but it is not obvious that this has delivered better value for money – the true effectiveness of most policy is still poorly understood. If government cannot determine where public spending delivers results and where it does not, both the taxpayer and society as a whole will continue paying for ineffective and inefficient programmes.

The paper proposes a framework through which both central and local government can improve the effectiveness of public spending. This framework is based on a number of social value approaches explored in the Review. The government needs to clearly articulate outcomes, and develop the internal capability to enable timely and accurate measurement of both the outcomes delivered and the costs incurred. Outcome-based government means focusing on those initiatives that genuinely change people’s lives: more often than not, tackling root causes rather than simply treating symptoms. Changing life outcomes can transform the lives of individuals and their communities, and result in savings to the taxpayer.

This paper by Dr Malin Arvidson, Professor Fergus Lyon, Professor Stephen McKay and Dr Domenico Moro from the Third Sector Research Centre examines the position and origins of Social Return on Investment (SROI) before identifying some emerging challenges. It draws out implications of these challenges for those using impact tools and those interpreting the results of SROI exercises. It also identifies a future research agenda that can strengthen the method. While the issues raised here are essential to developing SROI further, they are also valid for more general discussions regarding the proving and improving of the social value added by organisations.

In the early 1990s, a non-profit social enterprise, The Roberts Enterprise Development Fund [REDF] began to analyse its social return on investment (SROI) as a means to illustrate the value generated through an investment in its programmes, expressed in monetary terms. As the methodology developed, it became a key tool for REDF to more effectively evaluate its achievements against its objectives, manage its performance and communicate results. While the true value of many social impacts can not be monetised, the SROI calculation is a straight forward approach to demonstrate value creation for society to social investors of all profiles.

This paper from the London Business School, nef and Small Business Service provides a guide to understanding and using SROI.