Monday, June 27, 2011

Why social impact reporting tools and social accounting have all been getting in wrong (until now...)

So – that's quite a grand and likely provocative sweeping statement, and given that I've been involved in impact reporting and social accounting (including the development of tool-kits for 'doing it' ) for over a decade, might be seen to some as a contradiction to what I've always argued as being the benefit of doing it?

For a while now, I've noticed a growing interest and 'appetite' amongst social enterprises and other organisations I've worked with and supported to do some form of impact evaluation – they want to better 'tell their story' and understand the what/where/when/why and who they make a difference to. But as the same time, there's also been a noticeable lack of people actually doing it...

And I'm beginning to wonder if the reason for this might be because all the tool-kits and models for impact reporting that have been developed to date have largely an internal focus on the organisation – either based on their 'type' (co-operative, social firm, …) or thematic trading activity. And this includes SROI – after all, it asks stakeholders about how they feel the organisation has impacted upon them: another internal focus.

And that's fine, but in a wider context of increasing competition for contracts and customers, doesn't easily translate into being able to better offer competitive advantage for the time and cost usually entailed in using them (especially for smaller enterprises).

And that's why I'm quite taken with the latest kid on the block: “LIM” (Local Impact Assessment). It’s taken its starting point as being those broad issues and themes that are most commonly of interest to commissioning bodies when they seek to identify 'added value' when awarding contracts (and explains why measuring these issues are also useful in informing internal management decisions); it's also designed to be able to be easily completed in an afternoon (or morning) and rather than generate a text-heavy report, it produces an attractive 'infographic' (great for marketing purposes).

Given my background in this field, I was also encouraged by how keen the developers of this tool where to make sure they'd 'got it right' when they asked if I'd have a good 'poke around' and see if there were any parts of it that might be enhanced to create even more benefit to the user.

And by way of thanks, they agreed that if anyone wants to 'buy in' to using it, then they'll offer them a discount on the usual price of up to £100 if they mention my name!!

So – impact reporting still comes in lots of flavours and styles; if you're doing it, it’s important to make sure you know what you're hoping to get out of it and what you're able to commit in terms of time, before you start to choose which standard or tool-kit to adopt.

LIM seems to be filling a gap in what's available and seems ideally suited to those perhaps smaller enterprises that want to do this type of review/evaluation but would otherwise struggle to justify the time and cost of doing so.

So what are you waiting for…? - follow this link to find out more!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

we need more parties!

last weekend I found myself playing 'single dad', and with rain pouring down, was anxious to find something positive to do with my boys other than another round on the Wii...

thankfully, a local business was celebrating its 10th birthday with free food and cake and drinks - what more could 2 young boys want! And it was also great because it gave me the chance to explain to them why this local firm was giving away free cake - to help them understand that setting up your own business is risky, it takes hard work, and so its important to celebrate the milestones by having a party with your friends (and customers!).

Keeping any business going for 10 years is a fantastic achievement (and if you don't believe me, just see how long those big private firms in the FTSE100 manage to stay in that prestigious list for more than 10 years!)

So - Physio & Therapies in Todmorden: thank you for reminding us all how important it is to celebrate what our hard work achieves, and also for all the cake (think my boys went back for thirds...)

Monday, June 6, 2011

What’s the point of qualifications?

As an advisor I hold various qualifications in respect of what I do (see here for shiny certificates) – but in light of changing standards, awarding bodies, expectations of others, and so on, I recently considered: “what’s the point?”.

For the groups, peoples and communities I support, they certainly aren’t bothered – what’s important to them is the relationship I build with them and my ability to get them where they need and want to be.

However, Commissioning bodies, especially public bodies, are keener to see these pieces of paper. But having been involved in both developing and gaining sector qualifications, and my knowledge of some of my ‘peers’ who also hold them, they’re not a guarantee of true knowledge or ability – only proof that you’ve been taught something.

Why then do I have them? As a freelancer I recognise that they offer me a structure through which I can reflect on my own gained knowledge and experiences, and build on them through being ‘forced’ to consider other theories and models (not all of which turn out to be that useful, but are a good way to reassure me as to why I take the sometimes unorthodox approaches that I do).

So – if the people we support aren’t bothered by qualifications, and they don’t offer commissioning bodies the assurances that they should in terms of the quality of the person, maybe we need to rethink the place and purpose of them in our movement?