Measuring social value

Ensuring value for money in public service delivery is now a more pressing policy concern than ever before. Measures of social value, which take into account wider ‘value added’ impacts and softer outcomes, are increasingly replacing narrow financial returns as funders and commissioners seek ever more ‘bang for their buck’. This is particularly the case for the third sector, where often unquantified social returns can be far greater than in the commercial world, and whose role in delivering public services has grown apace in the last few years, and sets to continue.

This report provides a snapshot of the third sector’s ability to measure and communicate the social value of the services it provides. It also investigates the range of frameworks available for measuring social value and assesses progress made towards using these frameworks, particularly the Social Return on Investment (SROI) model currently being promoted by Government.

Based on a review of 30 charities and social enterprises of different sizes and working in different sectors, Measuring Social Value reveals a gap between the aspirations of policy makers for quantifiable measures of social value, and the ability of third sector organisations to measure and capture basic social outcomes. It argues that the sector as a whole must achieve a basic and universal standard of outcome measurement before attempting to implement more complex and rigorous models such as SROI; and that such a universal standard would be both more viable and equitable for charities and useful to funders.