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Navigating in Tricky Waters - Methodological Approaches to Impact Measurement

Thu, June 30, 9:00 to 10:30am, Campus Ersta, Aulan


This paper presents (1) the results of a review of scientific literature as well as official reports and policy documents on existing impact measurement methodologies and results. It (2) includes a proposed set of impact indicators, both at the micro (personal) and macro (societal) levels of the FP-7 project “Third Sector Impact”. The set of indicators results from literature and from the focus groups with Third Sector stakeholders and refers to the following theory-based impact domains: well-being and quality of life; innovation; civic engagement, empowerment, advocacy and community building; economy and human resources. Further (3), the paper presents the method of SROI analysis, including both merits and limitations of the model. It concludes with recommendations for Third Sector Organizations for dealing with the topic of impact measurement.
Impact orientation and Social Impact Measurement is frequently discussed within TSOs at the moment. This is on the one hand due to the organisational development of nonprofit organisations and Social Enterprises. On the other hand, public funding is increasingly linked to impact orientation and sound financial management. TSOs as providers of services and public goods are thus more and more often requested to prove their impacts. The proceeding managerialism of TSO contributes to the trend of impact measurement too. Impact measurement as an interdisciplinary topic is discussed within different contexts. Central are the areas of Evaluation Research, Social Accounting, Ecological and Social Impact Assessment, NPO research, Social Entrepreneurship as well as Profit-oriented Entrepreneurship, especially regarding Business Ethics or CSR. The popularity of the topic and the discussion in different contexts brings along a variety of terms and a sometimes contradicting understanding of “impact”. Within the framework of (Social) Impact Measurement, different terms, such as impact, outcome, effect, social return, social value, performance which are not always clearly distinguished are used (Maas 2008: 75). We share the definition of Clark: „By impact we mean the portion of the total outcome that happened as a result of the activity of the venture, above and beyond what would have happened anyway.“ (Clark et al. 2004).
A concept that has widely aroused attention is the portrayal of social impact as social return on investment, being based on the so-called impact value chain or logic model (Simsa It is also a comparatively wide-spread and sound analysis. The method tries to measure the social value created by social organisations or projects and to assess it in monetary terms. Besides the financial aspect, social, cultural, political and ecological impacts of various activities are explicitly included in the analysis. These impacts are expressed in monetary terms and contrasted with the amount of invested capital. The result of the analysis is the SROI-value, a highly aggregated ratio, which indicates the monetarily valued social return on every invested Euro.
The SROI analysis is promising and popular, nevertheless it presents a series of shortcomings (Maier that will be discussed briefly.

Clark, C., Rosenzweig, W., Long, D. & Olsen, S. (2004) “Double Bottom Line Project Report: Assessing Social Impact in Double Bottom Line Ventures. Methods Catalogue”, Center for Responsible Business Working Paper Series, Working Paper, 13.
Maas, K. (2008): Social impact measurement: Towards a guideline for managers. In: Csutora, M. & Szerényi, Z.M. (ed.). Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility Accounting –measuring and managing business benefits. Budapest: EMAN-EU 2008 Conference Proceedings.
Maier, F., Schober, C., Simsa, R., & Millner, R. (2014). SROI as a Method for Evaluation Research: Understanding Merits and Limitations. Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 1-26. doi: 10.1007/s11266-014-9490-x
Simsa, R./Rauscher, O./Moder, C/Schober, Ch.: Methodological Guideline For
Impact Assessment. Wien 2014