Finding a way to measure social impact

Seminar 1: 5 March 2013

Vanessa Wilkes, Doctoral research student

Row of terraced housesVanessa Wilkes, doctoral research student, Housing and Communities Research Group, was the main speaker at the first Housing and Communities Research Network seminar in March 2013. Vanessa talked about her research 'Finding a way to measure social impact: The institutional work of individuals within housing organisations'.

Research by the National Housing Federation (NHF) has indicated that many Housing Organisations (HOs) continue to invest heavily in additional services and facilities for their communities. Further to this, research has shown that HOs are adopting social impact measurement tools and methodologies to demonstrate their accountability.

Although studies into the subject of social impact measurement have grown, they remain primarily located within the grey literature, written mainly by practitioners, with a strong practical focus. There has been little academic research of the integration of social impact measurement tools and methodologies into the organisation.

This paper is drawn from Vanessa's PhD research which looks at how organisational fields at a macro level, and the institutional logics which they contain influence the work which is undertaken by individuals at a micro level. Drawing on primary data from six case studies, Vanessa's research seeks to present a broader perspective and provide additional insights into the challenges faced by housing associations as they seek to identify and adopt appropriate tools and methodologies from what is becoming an increasingly crowded and confusing environment.

The paper introduces the concept of Institutional Work which focuses on ‘creating, maintaining and disrupting institutions’ to place this research within a theoretical and sector specific context. Vanessa's research examines the Institutional Work of individual actors tasked with implementing an impact measurement methodology or tool into their organisation.

Download Vanessa's presentation 'Finding a way to measure social impact: The institutional work of individuals within housing organisations' (PDF)