Social impact measurement as an entrepreneurial process

Briefing paper 66

Third sector organisations are growing in scale and scope, but little is known about how they measure their social value and report their achievements. This paper explores the process of social impact assessment in charities, voluntary organisations, and social enterprises.

It looks at why organisations embark on social impact measurement; what guides their decisions about how to measure this impact, and how they use the results. It argues that these decisions are shaped by the objectives of the leadership and power relationships within organisations and, more importantly, with stakeholders outside the organisation.

Impact measurement can be seen as a bureaucratic form of regulation or as a form of marketing for organisations with entrepreneurial skills. The lack of consistent approaches, and the range of assumptions that need to be made in any measurement process, provide organisations with ‘room to manoeuvre’ and a source of power to influence others.

In this way, the process of measuring impact can been seen as a socially entrepreneurial process – a way to create opportunities and win scarce resources needed to make a social impact.

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Research contacts:

Professor Fergus Lyon and Dr Malin Arvidson