Money “measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile”

Last week, I attended a training course run by nef consultancy on “Social Return on Investment” (SROI).  SROI is a cost benefit analysis tool that allows us to devise methods of measuring those things which do not commonly have a price.  In 1968, Robert Kennedy gave a speech at the University of Kansas so eloquently expressing the sentiments captured in my title quotation: price, money and economic data are used to measure all things in life but are they the things that are important to us and that we value the most?  Robert Kennedy said No.  SROI is a way we can now give a value to those things, that are often hard to price, but make such a difference to our lives.

So lets take a look at the model:  SROI considers the scope and stakeholders and then works through the inputs, activity, outputs, outcomes and impact of the project.  It then focusses on the material and significant change that occurs and the outcomes of the project for those stakeholders.   Best indicators are chosen for this change – both subjective and objective – and then proxy measures are used to place a “value” or “price” on that outcome.  It is not perfect but then neither is the market so that is no reason not to reach a best possible conclusion!

SROI does take time and needs to be done with quality data and effective stakeholder engagement to generate a verifiable result but the critical question is how are you going to use the results?  I believe that there are 4 key benefits in using an SROI process:

  1. Improving services – if you understand your impact, good and less so, you can make sure you address the weaknesses and extend the good practice
  2. Engaging beneficiaries – the process requires you to engage your customers and clients, which is good practice, and enables you and your staff to improve and change
  3. Involving staff and volunteers – when people understand the impact that their jobs and roles are making; they will be more motivated and deliver even greater impact
  4. Marketing opportunities – by undertaking the work you will reach out to your partners but the SROI work will also give your credible information to put in tender proposals, reports, presentations and online on websites and in social media.

Critically for those of us that agree with Robert Kennedy’s sentiments, it feels like a necessary rebalance to put a value to family relationships, confidence, wellbeing and health, alongside those outputs and economic measures – even if they are a little harder to count!

Nic’s in Italy now so there will be more from me next week!