If you are a charity or community business, it’s important to be able to measure what kind of changes are happening in your community and how your work has contributed to them. Otherwise, how would you know whether your work is helping to improve people’s lives?
Measuring the social impact of your work using data can be a challenge which requires time, skill and energy. From defining which indicators to measure and designing questionnaires to managing data collection and analysing data outputs, there are many difficult decisions to make.
There are a variety of different approaches and tools available to measure social impact. To be scientifically valid, the ‘gold standard’ of measurement theoretically requires you to:
- Measure changes in your target community in comparison to a control group (i.e. excluding a group of people facing the same problem from your projects)
- Measure changes against a baseline (i.e. have a clear “before” and “after” picture)
We know, however, that this is not how community organisations usually operate. It would be unfeasible to turn some people away from your business just to create a ‘control group’ and, equally, it may not be possible to see a clear ‘before’ and ‘after’ picture with services that fulfil a persistent need.
So, given the challenges of ‘gold standard’ social impact measurement, we’ve developed an easier way to collect data and learn from it. This does not mean that we think collecting evidence against a control group and baseline would be worthless – on the contrary, we just think this should be done on a larger scale by researchers who have the capacity for it.
As a small charity or community organisation, you want to invest time only in collecting data that
a) helps you improve what you offer, and
b) proves to external stakeholders (funders or social investors) how your organisation makes a difference to the people you work with.
We’re aware though that your priority is getting on with running your charity or community business and to tackle societal problems. Collecting data should not be a strain on your time, it should help you do your work better.
Twine – our easy-to-use business intelligence platform - can help you do that by putting the data that matters at your disposal, with minimal time and effort required for collection and analysis. It does that through automated surveys, apps that track volunteer hours, outreach activities, and visitor footfall, and above all integrated benchmarks, that compare your results to those of similar organisations.
For example, you could run the survey on neighbourhood satisfaction on Twine at regular intervals, and compare it against the national Community Life Survey data. Over time, if your organisation’s aim is to improve that area as a place to live, you should see an increase in satisfaction ratings. If so, then that is great to show to funders and other stakeholders. If not, then you can follow up and ask what you may be missing. That is not “impact measurement” in the scientific sense – but instead useful, relevant, and timely data that you can make a bigger impact with!