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Today’s motto “do well by doing good”, comes from a client who has been attending our Social Enterprise Bootcamp. The whole of our bootcamp class collectively agreed that social value and impact are at the heart of any social enterprise as many businesses want to make the world a better place.   

I can’t help but wonder, why do the majority of entrepreneurs decide upon becoming a limited company, a sole trader, a charity or even a community interest company before considering a social enterprise?

The BGP team certainly don’t see a legal structure as a barrier to creating social impact; in fact, all businesses should be considering their social impact. All over the globe, sustainability awareness has been rising over recent years. The changes being made by us all to minimise our impact on the environment and by directing our spending on ethical products, proves there is a rising demand for businesses with a social mission at the core of their operations.

Social Entrepreneurship is a value we hold high at the University of Chester. Although social entrepreneurs are a minority among all entrepreneurs, they have a huge impact as they are focused on solving some of the world’s biggest problems. Therefore, it’s not the legal structure that makes an organisation a social venture – it is its activities and the drive to give back to the community. 

Social enterprises have both entrepreneurial passion and are driven to create an impact that will improve our lives and environment. Making money is not enough for them. They seek to add meaningful value to the world and also have the ability to build strong relationships between individuals in social and economic networks. As opposed to traditional business connections, social enterprises, in my experience, build relationships that are nourished by emotional support provided not only to people in need but also to the social entrepreneurs. Social enterprise leaders pull together, helping each other out with kindness and camaraderie. We have certainly seen more camaraderie in the last year across all businesses and by working in this way they are finding their drive to give back too.     

There are over 68,000 social enterprises in the UK and in the last twelve months we’ve had more social enterprise start-ups on our programme than in previous years. Cuts to local authority funding for services and the general uncertainty about the funding environment also seem to be driving this. I’m sure we’ll see more social enterprise start-ups over the next 12 months too.

With any social venture, developing your own social impact measurement and reporting framework can be done in a non-prescriptive approach. The measurements you take must be geared towards the outcomes that matter to you. This allows your organisation to see what works, to identify where improvements can be made, and to learn from results when making decisions about the future.

The first step is to communicate clearly what you are trying to achieve, how you are working to achieve it and the progress you have made so far.

These are 5 basic principles of impact measurement:

  1. Defining Your Mission - Write a mission statement, set out the context and scope of your work and make sure you know your beneficiaries.
  2. Mapping Your Activities and Measuring Your Impact - Draw up a map of your activities, link your activities to outputs and outcomes, choose indicators to track your outputs/outcomes, set targets and objectives and consider your wider impacts.
  3. Beneficiary Involvement - Address beneficiary awareness, question access and inclusion and consult with beneficiaries and consider ways to involve beneficiaries in your work (e.g. as volunteers). Beneficiary involvement is not so much a component of an impact measurement but a principle that runs throughout it!
  4. Using Results - Review your activities, assemble your results (including inputs, outputs and outcomes), review your performance and draw out lessons learned and plan for the future
  5. Communication - The key product of an impact measurement system is high quality impact reporting. This centres on an annual report, either combined with the annual company report or published as a separate impact report. Publish and distribute it! Share beyond general partners, there are a number of particular audiences for your impact report -  funders, donors and investors, relevant planners, policy makers and government bodies, other sector organisations and your beneficiaries.

As impact measurement and reporting spreads, it allows different organisations to communicate more effectively and share results. This can form the basis for greater understanding and for drawing together best practice across the sector. It can also equip organisations with useful information for communicating with Government over planning, funding and policy. If you would like further information or help with developing your framework, please contact your Business Development Manager.

Social entrepreneurs prove that profitability goals aren’t everything and instead, the greatest business success stories are the ones that create a better world for everyone.

Heather Carroll
Business Development Manager