Thursday, May 24, 2018

make noise vs. making an impact - how social media reacted to my impact report

Earlier this month I published my latest annual social impact report on myself - and my deciding to frame it against the UN's Sustainable Development Goals seemed to be well received judging by comments and feedback I've received to date.

A few years back, I started to publish the report on twitter, using the hashtag #AAimpact14 (and adding 1 for each subsequent year). But I never really thought about if twitter was the right channel to be doing this with - sure, there are various hashtags that relate to impact reporting, but that doesn't mean it's the right place for something like this.
So this year, I decided to experiment on myself (again!) - and posted out the sections of the impact report each day across different social media channels that I have a profile on, and then looked at what the numbers suggested 1 week after their original postings.

It's interesting reading, and almost counter-intuitive (if you listen to some of the hype around which social media channel you should be broadcasting your messages on):

Taking a chart based on the average number of impressions per social media post which is how most people I know seem to judge their success on social media (some channels got 1 per day, and others several, based on available characters allowed), I also looked at the number of engagements as a proportion of my total connections/followers on each respective channel.

So it seems that when it comes to reporting our impact and social value, LinkedIn is the place to be for getting it noticed, but if we want people to actively engage with it, then we should be looking more to instagram and blogs.

However, when I re-cast this chart using the number of impressions as a percentage of my total community on each channel (rather than an absolute number), a very different picture emerges:

A 'truer' picture emerges of instagram and blogs being the place where people like to see what's happening in the worlds of impact reporting, but in a much more passive sense than over on LinkedIn...

Thankfully, in an age where we can easily cross-post content and messages across different social media platforms, sharing our impact reporting like this isn't an either/or choice. But it's perhaps an interesting question to pose to ourselves: what are we hoping to achieve by posting about our impact reports - are we simply 'showing off', or trying to stimulate conversations and reflection amongst others as to how we're doing it?

Monday, May 7, 2018

how social impact reports sometimes tell us more about ourselves, than about the changes we've created for others

To my knowledge, I'm sill the only freelance/self-employed consultant to openly publish a social impact report on myself - and this year marks the 13th one!

And this year I've taken a different approach to how I present the findings of the indicators that track my 'social performance' from the stance of economic, environmental, and social themes. As well as continuing to benchmark the results externally where I'm able to source relevant comparisons, I'm also now using them to consider how far I'm contributing to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. After all, small enterprise and freelancers make up the overwhelming majority of all the businesses in the world, so the best chance of being able to make progress against these goals is through our collective efforts, right?

And while this take has been widely lauded so far (some even referring to me as 'genius' in doing so!), it's not this new format which is my stand-out takeaway from this years impact report.

Instead, it's the footnotes and narrative that I add where the results seem to be significantly different to the previous year - a sign that somethings not played out as I'd hoped, or, as has been the case in the past, actually an indication that the quality of my provision is actually far better than might have otherwise been expected in the circumstances (one year learner satisfaction fell 15% on the previous year, but digging into it, I found that over 1/3 of all learners on courses I delivered that year had attended under duress, so the satisfaction scores should have been correspondingly much lower!).
And during the period that this impact report covers, I had a significant change in my personal circumstances - as well as the tail-end of recovering my business from the impact of the massive flooding that hit the Calder Valley at the end of 2015, I also moved out of the family home and relocated in another town (don't worry - I'm still a Northerner in the Pennines).
My professional self felt that I'd be able to manage this transition pretty well, and client feedback has shown that my standards of delivery haven't been affected by this change. However, what this latest impact report shows is that the way in which I try and manage my business has been perhaps more affected than I might have otherwise hoped:
  • I've not been able to continue to use public transport for business travel to the same extent;
  • my ability to procure from other social enterprises, co-ops, and charities has been lessened;
  • the amount of pro bono support I was able to offer was down.

And these are perhaps to be expected during a period of family change and upheaval, rethinking priorities about life, and no longer living in such close proximity to rail and bus terminals as I used to. 
However, these things aren't an excuse not to try and rethink how I adapt to my new circumstances in trying to maintain my commitment to working out my values in how I work - and to that end I'm looking to change how I offer to meet people, seeking to make better use of video technologies: something I'll be adding to my reporting matrix next year.

And I think that that's something which is often missing from many impact reports I read from others - as well as the lack of external benchmarks and previous trends to help make sense of just how far achievements are worthy of recognition, an openness in committing to change their business models as a result of what they show.

(by the way - my full impact report for the year 2017/8 is now available on this link)

Thursday, May 3, 2018

tap dancing in the House of Commons

Some of you will know that I'm not big on formalities, nor one to readily 'doff the cap' in restraining myself from speaking out or causing disruption for the sake of manners.
Which meant that I was surprised to be invited to the House of Commons earlier this week, after being shortlisted in the national enterprise support awards from IOEE and SFEDI.

Although my famous fez didn't make the journey down to London with me, I was able to share the experience with my girlfriend (although she's not new to the whole awards ceremonies at Parliament, having done similar a few years back, but with the bonus of guided tours by Ministers!). 
And I'd encourage anyone who has the opportunity to add their partners as a "+1" to any business event like this to do so, as being there with her made me much more aware of just how I present myself in such settings, (and reassuringly/worryingly that I'm not that different in private to my public persona!).

Sadly, despite being shortlisted for 2 of the awards, I was pipped to the post on both of them, but the event was a rare opportunity to re-engage with some universities and sector bodies I'd started to loose touch with. 
The setting itself was also suitably prestigious, although the lack of tables for dancing on made me wonder if the organisers had been tipped off about my coming in advance..? 
But despite this, I still managed to thrown down some moves with a tap dance under the main chandelier in the Central Lobby before security were able to move me along...