Social impact measurement – is it important?

People often ask me what exactly was my master’s course about at LSE. My Master of Science in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship (a mouthful!) is as niche and new as it sounds. Throughout this 12-month course, I got introduced to various topics such as social enterprises, how to use innovation for good, multiple structures a social enterprise can take, and so on. A topic that caught my interest was social impact measurement or ESG. Having only heard of the subject, it was interesting to see the extensive research on the topic and the various tools to measure social impact. It also made me realise how difficult measuring a program’s “social impact”, or even a single task is. For example: How do you evaluate a skilling program’s short, medium and long-term positive (or negative) impact? How do you determine the effect of a change in policy to be more gender-streamed? Are these measurements the same for all types of organisations in all sectors?

It’s a complex task and a hot topic for many organisations. However, it’s essential to continue this research. Why?

Amongst many, I will mention two solid reasons:

1. Social impact measurement, ESG and even sustainability are relatively new and hot topics and buzzwords. However, there is a lack of awareness, less data and research on the subject, and too many impact measurement tools (either too specific to a case or vague to be used, with no possible one-tool-fits-all approach).

We need to develop more sophisticated social impact measurement standards and certifications to help clarify and set a pedestal for companies to work towards, and for more transparency for our stakeholders!

2. Social impact measurement is crucial to measure along with financial performance, especially of social enterprises or companies that create social impact. Just like financial performance, impact measurement is essential to evaluate how the company is doing, set goals for the future, fine-tune policies, set better standards for everyone else, and have more responsible operations. 

Therefore, organisations should research and gather more data to develop comprehensive standards and certifications. Organisations should also use more and more standards to compare to others measuring the same things, providing more clarity on the metrics. There is more demand for customised and specific impact measurement standards and certifications. So the more we use them, the more we understand them, and the better we measure the impact we are working so hard towards.

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