Social enterprise and impact measurement


Instrumental impacts on policy and practice

With the shifting environment regarding the third sector, interest in social enterprise activity is increasing. In particular there is growing attention being paid to procurement and contracting with the public sector, and demonstrating social value.  The work of TSRC on social enterprise has influenced policy making with evidence on the scale and dynamics of the sector and on understanding how social enterprises grow.

"Analysts in DCLG have found the advice of partners in TSRC very helpful and timely on a number of very policy relevant issues associated with decentralisation and big society, including: social finance; the VCS and community engagement; and public service reform.  This enhances the impact of research on the policy making process"
Robert Rutherfoord
Decentralisation and Big Society Research and Analysis Department, DCLG


“TSRC's expertise in social impact measurement led to us working with the Middlesex team to develop a Guide to Getting Started in Social Impact Measurement, using a KTP placement.  As a result of this work, we have distributed the Guide to over 700 organisations and trained over 200 third sector organisations to introduce this important subject.”
Nicky Stevenson
Principle Consultant, The Guild


“We found the meeting useful and timely in terms of our thinking on the next steps for SROI and how it can feed into government priorities”
Craig Myers
Office for Civil Society


"The work you are doing on social enterprises is directly relevant to the Public Engagement Foundation. I particularly appreciated drawing on your research and insights on measuring impact, scaling up, and social franchising/replication."
Tim Joss
Public Engagement Foundation


Collaborative working

  •     A project with The Guild resulted in an online tool to support social enterprises measure their impact
  •     We developed a toolkit for organisations to measure their impact, through a CBC research placement with The Guild. More details
  •     Joint events with PMPA (Oct 2010 & Nov 2011) discussed social enterprise with around 150 local and national government officers and local councillors
  •     An event at Cumberland Lodge (June 2011) brought together 45 senior policy makers, third sector practitioners and academics to discuss research in relation to the future of the third sector
  •     TSRC Impact of evaluations event (April 2011) brought together 50 public sector, practitioners and researchers to look at measuring impact of third sector organisations
  •     Regular policy circles have been held with senior officers at the Strategy Unit, Office for Civil Society, with particular reference being made to the usefulness of work on measuring the scale of the sector and models of scaling up social enterprises
  •     Policy discussions have been held with staff from the Department of Health, Department of Communities and Local Government and the Foreign and   Commonwealth Office
  •     We have worked closely with Social Enterprise UK, helping to inform and analyse the State of Social Enterprise Survey
  •     We are working with Co-ops UK to refine their database and develop a classification system
  •     We have run two PhD student summer schools to help train future researchers on social enterprise.


  •     Our working papers have been cited by the Scottish (WP5) and Australian Governments (WP 3)
  •     The Department of Health selected TSRC to evaluate the Social Enterprise Investment Fund
  •     Fergus Lyon and Leandro Sepulveda evaluated the School for Social Entrepreneurs’ programme that aims to support social enterprises spinning out of the NHS under the Right to Request policy
  •     Department for Business Innovation and Skills has commissioned work on Low Carbon Economies
  •     Fergus Lyon was appointed as a member of the Advisory Board for the Office for Civil Society's Measuring Social Value project (2009-2011)
  •     Simon Teasdale won best paper award at the 2010 Public Administration Committee conference (WP 46)
  •     Simon Teasdale served as a member of the steering group on the Department for Communities and Local Government’s action research project.

Long-term impacts

The social enterprise research stream will continue to build on its research to influence not only social enterprise policy but also practice. Through developing practical tools to help  social enterprises decide how to measure their social impact, the programme of work can have considerable impact on social enterprises. Through understanding the growth processes, the research will also support organisations develop their growth strategies and aid policy makers in developing support infrastructure.




How social enterprises measure their impact (see paper 49 and paper 66)

Understanding the scale and dynamics of social enterprise (papers 4 and 43)

Different meanings of social enterprise (paper 46) and how it relates to the sector (paper 15)

The role social enterprise can play in the health sector (working paper 52), homelessness (see paper 5 and paper 3), and housing (paper 53 and paper 54)

the role of women, and ethnic minorities in social enterprise


Researchers have presented to many policy and practitioner communities, including:

  • The Social Entrepreneurship Research Colloquium, Duke Business School, US.
  • House of Commons All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Enterprise (Nov 2008)
  • Shadow cabinet members (Dec 2011)
  • Hazel Blears MP and the Labour Party’s Social Action Forum (2011)
  • Sixty people from local authorities or local commissioners, at two ‘Understanding Social Enterprises’ seminars, organised by Understanding Modern Government and led by TSRC
  • Department of Communities and Local Government on Community Enterprise (Feb 2010)
  • The National Audit Office on ‘the third sector and public services’ (May 2009)
  • 60 third sector, policy makers and practitioners at Social Enterprise and social economic theory (November 2009)
  • 150 practitioners and commissioners at a conference on measuring the social and economic impact of local services (April 2010)
  • 10 policy makers and practitioners at 'Social Impact measurements, experience and future direction' (June 2010)



TSRC researchers have presented to many different audiences via external events, as detailed above, andur own collaborative events, as detailed in collaborative working.


TSRC work on social enterprise has been widely covered in the sector press, as well as local government and national channels. Examples include calls clearer definition and measuring scale, and commentary on government policy.

Press coverage has also helped to highlight research on social enterprise in the NHS, ethnic minorities in social enterprise and how organisations use impact measurement.


Over 3,000 people have viewed the social enterprise research pages in 2011/12