The entire goal of social value reports is to demonstrate to stakeholders the impactful change your organisation is making and the continual improvement achieved. You want to show what you’ve achieved, how you did it, and, most importantly, what will happen when you’ve achieved it.
Businesses put effort into measuring their impact and gathering all this data to back up their initiatives. And it’s great that they’re invested in making a difference. But we can’t just stop there.
By focusing on the bells and whistles of the data, caught up in everything we’ve achieved, we can miss the forest for the trees. Namely, what our impact actually means for real people, and how our journey to get where we are has changed our business and its value generation for the better.
In short, we’re missing the bigger picture of social value reporting. With this in mind, we’ve put together five of our top tips to help you move past the basics of social value reporting and carry out more valuable, effective impact measurement.
#1 – Social value doesn’t exist in isolation
No matter how much we all wish it could be, social value isn’t straightforward. And neither is reporting on it. It’s not a case of just drawing a line between X initiative and X results. For more valuable, effective social value reports, we need to move past disparate pieces of data and look at the plethora of connections between our activities and outcomes to form a coherent picture.
“Taking our entire business remote during the pandemic has resulted in 2,000 less car journeys per year across the business and 400,000kg of CO2 saved.”
That sounds great on paper. But what this misses is the fact that, in everything you do, there will be a crossover. There will be intended, unintended, positive, and negative outcomes to consider. While yes, your work-from-home scheme may have saved that much CO2, has it also improved employee wellbeing and engagement by removing stressful commutes? Are there some members of the team whose mental health has suffered from a lack of in-person interaction? If so, awesome, but how! What are the stories?
There will be a whole web of information and data stemming from this one social value initiative. And right now, you might just be scratching the surface.
By thinking bigger and connecting the dots between your inputs and outcomes, you can uncover a deeper level of insight on top of the social value metrics you were previously missing, unlock opportunities to create more of an impact, reduce negative ones, and make sure your social value reports are reflective of all the impacts you’re having.
#2 – Outputs versus outcomes
Let’s say a business proudly shares this on their social media: “In 2020, through our partnership with Centrepoint, we successfully got 250 young people off the streets.”
This is amazing work and worth sharing. But this is only the output of the initiative. It’s missing the all-important outcomes that happened as a result of this progress. Outputs suggest a change has taken place, nothing more, nothing less. 250 young people are now off the street. Outcomes, however, demonstrate that you’ve made an actual positive impact to real people and communities.
Outputs neglect the main reason social value matters in the first place: bettering lives. How has getting 250 youths off the street actually improved their lives? What real-life examples are there? We’ve been focusing on half the picture. We log outputs in reports without digging deeper into what that output actually means to people. That’s the difference between a good and create social value report.
#3 – Not all data is equal
This brings us nicely on to the fact that not all data is equal. Numbers only mean so much. If you want to bring staff, investors, or partners on side, you need to have relatable, human stories that are easy to understand and move past metrics into real-life impact. Ideally, you want to present a mixture of both in all your reporting.
Quantifying your impact with numbers and figures can be great for quick overviews and snappy press releases. To move into more valuable reporting, we also need to acknowledge its limitations for telling a real story. We need proof of tangible human impact for the changes we’ve made.
Qualitative data – whether that’s surveys, interviews, or feedback – adds flesh to the bones of your impact. It adds detail and nuance. It provides a necessary human context to the value you’re generating.
#4 – The method behind the madness
No business’s journey towards impact is a straight line. Yet, typically, businesses present a surface-level overview of everything that went right in their reporting. But this isn’t realistic. Instead, let’s start showing the full story. Let’s outline the ups, downs, and everything else in between. We could all benefit from more details on the method or framework you’ve followed and how this has impacted your efforts.
Rather than only sharing quick stats to demonstrate your impact, what about showing the journey you’ve been on to get there? What about all the initiatives that fell short? Or those that had an adverse impact and you’ve since learnt from?
Social value reports aren’t supposed to just be a positive pat on the back. It’s supposed to be a valuable exercise in demonstrating your organisation’s journey and highlighting the good and bad.
#5 – Proving and improving
We can spend a lot of time gathering data to support our initiatives and compiling reports to prove our impact to investors or shareholders. But let’s put some time into encouraging more in the future. Effective reporting identifies areas where you’ve exceeded and those that still need improvement. But measuring your impact in numbers alone doesn’t make this possible. It’s the analysis and evaluation you then do with your measurements that does.
Think of collecting analytics and metrics as step one. It’s a great start and the foundation of all good reports. But actually using these to guide your decisions moving forward and sharing this is what makes your organisation’s reporting great.
All the data you collect can be used to better allocate resources, inform future strategies, and boost your value long-term. Within your reporting, you want to compare, explore, and analyse the factors determining your outcomes. And you want to demonstrate how these lessons will enable you to proceed in a more targeted way, with less risk and more insight.
Despite knowing that reporting on their impact is an important thing to do, we could all boost our efforts to take it to the next level. Let’s take the focus away from numbers, targets, and outputs, and focus on methodology, progress, and real lives. In order to unleash the full potential of your organisation’s impact, you need to start making the most out of your reporting.
Impact Reporting makes measuring, analysing, and reporting on your organisation’s impact easier than it’s ever been, allowing you to continue making even more of a difference. If you have any questions or would like a demo, get in touch on 0161 532 4752.