Do your results add value?

This may seem like a silly question. Of course your results add value…right?

This week’s blog post is inspired by our Regional Program Director for Europe, Elgar, who posted this article on the difference between social impact and social value.

It has really got me thinking about how we measure our impact in SIFE and I ask you to bear with me as I subject you to my rambling thoughts…

The way I’ve thought about it is that social impact is the actual result, the change that has happened. Whereas social value is what that impact has meant, the value added by the change. The social impact is easier to measure and will remain the same, but the social value is situational and will change dependant on what is needed and what is considered valuable to the people, in that place, at that time.

In SIFE we’re always pushing ourselves to measure both. The social impact is the results and the social value is the ‘so what?’. So what that you have had this impact? Why is this result important? What has this meant to the individuals/the wider community? What has your impact resulted in? etc

A SIFEy example would be a team that ran a project empowering 4 unemployed individuals to set up a business that then created jobs for 10 additional people. They could have run this project in 2 different situations:

Situation 1: An area with some available job opportunities, however the 4 unemployed individuals struggle to secure employment due to a lack of skills/experience. They receive money from the state, but this only covers their basic needs.

Situation 2: An area of high unemployment with very few/no formal employment opportunities. The 4 unemployed individuals have no source of income and are unable to cover the most basic needs for the survival their family.

In both situations the social impact is the same: 1 business, providing an income for 4 people and creating 10 additional jobs.

But the social value, the value that is actually added by this, will be very different.

For the individuals in situation 1 the value added by the income and jobs may be that they now have raised self-esteem, they are no longer reliant on the state and they are able to afford non-essentials, whereas in situation 2 the value added may be that they are now able to afford food/shelter/sanitation and they can send their children to school. For the economy, the value added by the creation of jobs will be much more noticeable in situation 2 compared to situation 1.

So whilst the business/job is the same, the value of that business/job will depend on what effect it has.

This could work for in-tangible results as well. If the social impact is raised self-confidence and inter-personal skills, what is the difference in social value for a man who wants a promotion in comparison to a man who has been excluded from society for years, has no relationships and no form of employment?

As always in SIFE we love (and require) to have your feedback, and true to form, I’m hoping to hear your opinions… As much as I am loving delving into how this could help us to capture the depth of our projects, I am struggling a little with the terminology. The word ‘value’ implies that it is worth something positive. But it is possible to have a negative social impact. Would you measure the knock-on effect from this as social value, even though it is more like ‘social damage’?

Many of our teams are measuring the value that their beneficiaries are receiving from the results achieved and I would be excited to explore whether using definitions such as these could help with this process.

Widely used definitions within the SIFE community are that an output is what they have done as a team, eg. the number of sessions, materials produced, number of individuals they have worked with, and not the actual results. The outcomes are the results, often with no distinction between the immediate results and what they mean/the value they have had. So perhaps social impact and social value are the 2 elements of outcomes, pushing us to further assess and define our achieved outcomes and the affect we are having on the quality of life and standard of living of those we work with.

Comment below, let us know you thoughts on social impact and social value! Let us know if you already use this or if you have other exciting ways of assessing the success of your projects!

I’m going to leave you with a project video that always gives me goosebumps. This really captures the ‘so what?’ of the results achieved, it really captures the social value added by the social impact.

On the Smokey Mountain Dumpsite in Manila, there are high levels of child labour. Few employment opportunities lead to families unable to feed and support their families and children are forced to sift through the waste. The King’s College of London SIFE team worked with a group of women to start a jewellery enterprise, providing employment opportunities and a sustainable income for those in need. So what?…

SIFE love and hugs,

Emma and the SIFE UK team


About EnactusUK

Enactus UK runs in 51 universities in the UK, carrying out more than 250 social enterprise projects that use the positive power of business to help people in need - in the local and international community.
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1 Response to Do your results add value?

  1. Chris Coates says:

    Love this blog. A lot of this is similar to things our team had a lot of conversations about in the run up to nationals. I could ramble on and on with regards to this subject (and I probably will just to keep myself away from revision), but I think one of our mentors, Chris Richards, pointed it out perfectly when he asked us to think about the subject in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Situations 1 and 2 operate on different levels of the hierarchy in that one facilitates the provision of basic needs, whereas in the other these basic needs may already be catered for but the value a project can add in terms of things such as added self-confidence, provision of employment skills and the movement away from state-reliance cannot be underestimated. Whilst it may be argued the the value added in situation 2 may seem greater than in situation 1 I don’t think this is the case.As SIFE teams, our projects are helping participants progress up Maslow’s hierarchy, we address needs at all different levels, and the great thing is we have our own freedom and are not restricted solely to helping those at the bottom of the pyramid. The challenges at each stage vary, and I know sometimes we feel it’s even more difficult to get people to the next stage when they are already further up the pyramid. But it is just as (if not even more so) rewarding to overcome these challenges and without our input and the ‘social value’ our projects add, it is possible that none of our participants may ever have had the opportunity to make that progression.

    With regards to terms such as ‘social damage’, I think this is where the SIFE criterion really plays a pivotal role. I wasn’t a part of SIFE under the old Criteria, however I know the new criterion has really helped our projects in this aspect. All projects should consider (although not necessarily impact – as we have been told so many times by you guys) all aspects of the triple bottom line. In doing so this generally negates the potential for ‘social damage’ and where the potential does exist allows us to come up with solutions that not only overcome this potential but allow us to create even better projects in doing so. I also think this is where criterion training becomes an essential part of every SIFE teams’ programme.

    Apologies for the looooooooong reply.


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