Exploring Social Impact in the North West of England
In collaboration with Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), SIAA hosted an exploratory social impact event on the 13th May in Liverpool, United Kingdom. The event provided an opportunity for networking and knowledge sharing between the local and regional social impact community within the North West of England.
The objective of the event was to bring together a regional group with an active professional interest in social impact measurement to discuss current developments in the sector, to understand different perspectives and challenges, and explore ways of working together. The participants came from varied backgrounds and included academics and researchers from LJMU, regional consultants and practitioners, public, private and third sector organisations, and representatives from sector bodies.
The event was chaired by Lucy Day, Social Impact Project Manager at LJMU and Ruth Whateley, SIAA Manager. The afternoon comprised of presentations from Jeremy Nicholls, SIAA Chairman and CEO of The SROI Network, Dr Hannah Timpson and Gayle Whelan from LJMU Centre for Public Health, and Joe Hemington, Assistant CEO of Merseyside Expanding Horizons. These presentations were then followed by an open workshop session.
Jeremy Nicholls got the event rolling with a big question: “Why are we here and why is social impact analysis on the agenda?” to which participants responded with suggestions such as the economic crisis, increasing demand from organisations, and policy changes such as the UK Social Value Act. Jeremy then provided an insight in to developments in social impact analysis on a national and international scale. He explained how organisations are starting to put social value at the start of their decision making processes, that boards and members should become involved in the impact agenda, and that greater information sharing between organisations is required. He concluded that social impact is a growing journey and that SIAA exists to help get this journey right.
Dr Hannah Timpson and Gayle Whelan presented their research in to mapping community assets in the Wirral using a Social Return on Investment (SROI) approach. Their presentation provided a practical case study of the application of a social impact analysis method. The aim of the research was to map assets, value and impact in a community to help understand where strengths lie within the community and support commissioning decisions. Their research demonstrated how the use of SROI assisted in helping them understand the social value of a range of projects for communities, individuals and the Wirral as a whole.
Joe Hemington then shared his experiences of social impact analysis through Merseyside Expanding Horizons, a voluntary sector organisation promoting social inclusion through partnerships. Joe discussed the challenge of reporting your findings once a social impact analysis had been conducted. He explained the difficulties in deciding how you should report your findings, and who you should be reporting them to. Key points were raised around how social impact reporting can help improve the accountability of an organisation, and also demonstrate how diverse small charities and organisations can be.
The afternoon then concluded with an open workshop session, where participants suggested topics they would like to discuss in more detail. Topics covered the cost vs benefits of measuring social impact, the reliability of SROI as a method, how far should standardisation go, and how do you share knowledge and best practice regionally. The small group discussions provided the opportunity to work through ideas, ask advice, and share knowledge.
The event highlighted the real value in bringing together participants from a range of backgrounds and sectors in order to discuss social impact at a regional scale. We hope to continue the discussions and increase the opportunities for knowledge sharing by supporting further events and meetings in the North West.