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Understanding How to Wield Social Return on Investment (Part II)

Perspectives on SROI | Reporting | Metrics | social impact measurement tool | monitoring & evaluation

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Alan is a social sector consultant and one of the founding directors of Quantica Education, a school of social entrepreneurship in Colombia. Alan has published more than 100 blogs and articles, managed global research projects, & facilitated dozens of workshops for entrepreneurs in Latin and South America.

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Posted on 2018-06-03

In Part I of this blog series we looked at the Social Return on Investment (SROI) approach to accounting for impact and some of the challenges involved in its implementation.

By identifying monetary values for impact generated, SROI enables us to calculate impact returns as a ratio of our capital allocation. For example, if that ratio is 5:1, it means that every dollar allocated will generate (or has generated) social value worth five dollars.

Its rigorous process takes impact accounting to new levels of transparency and authenticity. That is, if organizations can implement SROI at all. A number of challenges across the impact space limit organizations’ success to SROI mastery. As discussed in the Part 1, these include 1) inadequate monitoring systems to accurately track impact, 2) unrefined indicator/outcome mapping processes, 3) impact reporting which lacks comparability and 4) the high resource cost of implementing an SROI approach.

Such barriers to implementation cause organizations to either not adopt an SROI approach, or to do so unsuccessfully (smaller organizations find it especially difficult). However, such barriers also represent a market opportunity for enterprising individuals to bring new tools and resources into play to facilitate successful adoption of SROI methodologies.

We’ll look at this marketplace in this blog, and show what Sopact has to offer as well.

SROI Tools of the Trade

As we have discussed, the different calculations and considerations required for an accurate SROI are burdensome for some organizations. Technology which enhances SROI practitioners ability to document the valuation process and to calculate the results in an automatic way, would enable more organizations to implement an SROI approach effectively and allow them to focus more on the strategic aspects of the methodology.

Most of the existing tools have similar features for the calculations and documentation process but the way they enter and manage the data used for those calculations differ, and very few offer a comprehensive solution. Let’s take a look at a couple of these tools.

Sametrica

One of the first tools to be made available, Sametrica is a reasonable sametricasolution for organizations seeking to take the first step into impact management from an SROI perspective. Where it falls short is its inability to house and manage differing types of data -- it is really a solution for organizations oriented towards survey data. Furthermore, in relation to the reporting issues mentioned above and in Blog 1, Sametrica doesn’t offer in-software solutions for communicating type or scope of analyses undertaken. This is a crucial aspect of SROI principles (transparency) and requires organizations to use other tools to manage this important piece.

Sinzer

sinzerSinzer offers similar features as that of Sametrica, focused on leveraging survey data and an SROI approach. The platform provides do not have real-time monitoring and deep impact analytics.  Data collection is limited to survey based approach only.

Core differences in approach

While above tools are a good starting point for SROI calculations, the survey-based approach has fundamental limitations. One of the challenging aspects is that at typical organization needs more than SROI analysis.

  • Data management: Aggregate not just survey data, but regular data, real-time data, and offline data
  • United data aggregation: Data for a specific period per say do not provide a consistent performance. Hence, you must provide a complete data management and aggregation process similar to the data warehouse
  • Data analytics: Many of these tools simply do not have comprehensive data analytics built-in. Hence, a user has to take it to external tools such as Tableau, Excel or other analytics. Even with that limitations, data collected are limited use for impact insight and impact learning (see how Impact Cloud solves this challenge)
  • Impact report: Integrated drag-drop based impact report allows smart reporting with story, narrative, performance results and SROI results.
  • Feedback Loop & Messaging: Make data collection actionable. 

Impact CloudTM + SROI App

It is worth emphasizing again, the SROI methodology demands a fairly comprehensive approach to impact accounting. Sopact's SROI tool is a more comprehensive solution to that need. This is because it’s nestled within Sopact's Impact Cloud, integrated with their powerful data collection and data management applications.

Screen Shot 2018-06-02 at 4.30.15 PM

With Sopact's tools, organizations that collect data from the field, either through offline data collection tools or surveys, can summarize their results and link them to input, output, or outcome metrics that they have defined for their SROI strategy.

Once those data are automatically summarized by the system, the summary results are used by the SROI app to calculate the total value of inputs and the total value of outcomes. The importance of this approach lies in the ability to keep the data integrity from the source, which not only adds transparency to the process, but also facilitates the data management process for the evaluator.

Another advantage of the Impact Cloud is the ability to combine different elements in the Social Return on Investment report, such as charts, stories from the field, images, and qualitative metrics, to tell a more complete narrative of the outcomes experienced by the end beneficiaries. All these elements are available within Impact Cloud, including a flexible report builder with different template options.

Conclusion

Impact organizations increasingly need integrated solutions to their impact data management needs. Social Return on Investment impact accounting demands an even more refined data management approach to ensure transparency and accurate execution of the approach.

This necessity for more rigor represents a challenge for most impact organizations, especially those on a smaller budget. Implementing proper monitoring systems, communicating accurate reporting of impact, and weathering the high cost of SROI execution limit organizations’ ability to successfully adopt the SROI way.

While tools do exist to support various parts of the SROI execution journey, such as data input and analysis, most only partially fill those gaps. Sopact's SROI tool addresses those gaps because it is integrated with the powerful Impact Cloud, empowering impact organizations to manage their SROI journey from A to Z -- mapping stakeholders to reporting impact.

Interested in leveraging SROI to improve your impact accounting, attract more funding, and increase the effectiveness of your intervention? If it sounds daunting, it is. To make it less daunting, and to demystify the process, Sopact offers a free demo of their integrated SROI solution. It'll put you at ease, and well on your way to feeling excited about the possibilities SROI can bring to you, your organization, and most importantly, to your beneficiaries.

See Impact Cloud