Social Impact Assessment: Supporting the voluntary sector

Read the original article in the October 2011 issue of the Social Research Association’s newsletter.

How do we build consensus around social impact assessment? The Social Impact Analysts Association, a new professional body for those who assess social impact for the voluntary sector, has been set up to help. Claire Coulier describes its work.

Social impact assessment is a hot topic. Non-profit organisations, socially responsible businesses, and social enterprises in particular, now find that assessing their social impact helps them make crucial decisions about how best to use their scarce resources, particularly at a time when they have a bigger role than ever in delivering innovative solutions to pressing social problems.

At its best, social impact assessment can be a lever to help voluntary sector organisations improve transparency and efficiency, set strategy based on evidence, and, crucially, become more effective in delivering on their goals. But at its worst, social impact assessment can be a tedious, difficult and time-consuming process.

In part, this is due to the well-documented lack of consensus about how best to measure social impact, let alone about what impact actually represents. 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.

But the result is that many voluntary sector organisations – particularly smaller ones – face challenges in assessing their social impact and in using the data they collect effectively.

SIAA is a new professional body which has been set up to help address these issues. It aims to promote high standards of social impact assessment and disseminate knowledge of how best to conduct it; engage with policymakers and sector leaders on behalf of its members; and raise awareness of social impact assessment as a new profession. It will provide online and in-person networking opportunities, professional training and support, resources and information, and will advocate on behalf of its members.

SIAA will formally launch on Thursday 1 December at an inaugural conference on impact.

 

For more information or to get involved, contact hello@siaassociation.org or find more details on the SIAA website www.siaassociation.org

 

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