Why measure social impact?

Photo by Steve Harris
The majority (68%) of social enterprises now measure their social impact, according to Social Enterprise UK's State of Social Enterprise 2013 Survey.

Social enterprises Poached Creative and Iridescent Ideas recently teamed up to find out why:

“As a social enterprise providing communications services to the social enterprise sector, we wanted to understand the motivations for social impact reporting and identify the barriers for those social enterprises not already doing it.” said Jessica Smith, Director of Poached Creative.

Together they decided to run a campaign to discover the answers to these questions. They produced a white paper on social impact reporting - Why impact? – and ran a twitter social debate using the hashtag #whyimpact.

As part of the debate, social entrepreneur Liam Black shared his top two reasons for social impact reporting on twitter: first, you owe it to the taxpayers who subsidise you, and second, you find out vital data about your business.

Social impact reporting can also help prove your business is making an impact, define the need and market for your services, motivate your team, help publicise your work and secure future business.

But with all these benefits, why are over a third (32%) of social enterprises still not measuring their impact?

The Why Impact white paper identifies that social enterprises can find social impact reporting time-consuming, expensive and confusing.

One of the confusing aspects is that there is no single social impact measurement, but a variety available. The main two are social auditing or accounting and social return oninvestment (SROI), with other methods usually a variation on these approaches.

As for being time-consuming and expensive, proportionality is key (according to think tank Demos) –the amount of work needed for evaluation should be in line with and not outweigh the size of the organisation. Larger social enterprises may have the capacity to take on a fuller SROI type of assessment, whereas smaller enterprises may need a simpler approach.   

Social enterprise Iridescent Ideas has addressed this issue, by offering their ‘simple’ social impact report service:

“Monitoring and evaluation methods to prove impact need to be simple, commensurate with the outcomes expected and, critically, make it easy to collect meaningful data. This takes planning, of course, but thinking it through at the start will mean that what is valued gets measured and what is measured gets valued.” said Gareth Hart of Iridescent Ideas.

To find out more visit www.iridescentideas.com/impact

Gaps in mental health services need urgent action

Mental health is big news at the moment and organisations that work with children and young people, in particular, are seeing first-hand the affect that funding cuts are having on waiting times and access to services.

Director of creative agency Mediorite, Lucy Ferguson, works with creative young people and shares an office with Poached Creative. She has been frustrated at the gaps in mental health services and recognised that colleagues in other organisations are experiencing the same problems.

She said: "I've got young people working with me who are in crisis, who need help now. I'm not a mental health professional. What are we supposed to do while they wait for mental health services?"

Outgoing president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Sue Bailey, last month described services in England as a 'car crash'. Her comments have drawn attention to a funding crisis that the British Medical Association's annual meeting was told would lead to "avoidable deaths and suicides".

At least 1,700 mental health beds have been closed since 2011 and this is putting pressure on in-patient teams to discharge patients as early as possible, in turn increasing the strain on underfunded community mental health teams.

Despite a Government commitment to make mental health as important as physical health, an April 2014 Budget decision has resulted in a cut to mental health services that's 20 per cent greater than the cuts to acute services, according to a letter from six leading mental health organisations.

And it's young people's services that are being hit the hardest.

Young Minds reports that more than half of councils have cut or frozen budgets for child and adolescent mental health.

The number of teenagers who have self-harmed has tripled in England over the last decade, according to a Health Behaviour in School Age Children report.

Early intervention when young people first experience mental health issues has proved to be the most effective, and cost effective, way to tackle the issues.

A report from mental health charity Rethink shows that early intervention that treats young people swiftly when they first experience psychosis, can save the NHS £15 for every £1 spent.

Yet 50% of early intervention teams have faced cuts in the last year.

All this leads me to the conclusion that the current approach to funding mental health services in England is fundamentally flawed. The Government needs to address funding for mental health services now, before more damage is done.

That's why at Poached Creative and Mediorite we're supporting Ben Jolly's petition calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to intervene and properly fund mental health services for children and young people. Sign the petition now.

A Young Minds young people's manifesto in 2012 tells in young people's own words why this is so important. The issues haven't changed. Take a look...