human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Learning to measure our social impact

From a social economy training in Spain

With the rising importance of social enterprises and initiatives in the Caritas network comes the need to evaluate their impact making life better for people in need. That requires a change of mind-set to measure the success of an economic activity not on business terms but on social ones such as poverty reduction, raising employability, and more cohesive communities.

That is what Caritas Europa’s training on Social Impact Measurement was about. Participants from Caritas Austria, Caritas Georgia, Caritas Hellas, Caritas Italy, Caritas Kielce – Poland, Caritas Montenegro, Caritas Portugal, Caritas Spain, Caritas Ukraine and Caritas Vienna got together on 12-14 June, in Madrid.

All the participants had been involved with social economy through a variety of enterprises (i.e.  Magdas, Fa Bene), programs (i.e. Elba, Your Job), initiatives/organizations (Caritas Europa task force for Social Economy, other European networks or umbrella institutions).

The training was facilitated by Dr. Georg Mildenberger, professor and head of research at the Centre for Social Investment and Innovations at Heidelberg University; and Antonio Fantasia, Policy and Advocacy Officer at Caritas Europa.

The course started by presenting the participants and their involvement in the assessment of social impact. This gave us an overview of the different realms and settings that our fellow Caritas colleagues are confronted with on a daily basis. It also brought into light the different subdivisions of social and humanitarian work that Caritas organisations do at an international level, where the assessment of social impact is increasingly becoming a prerequisite and an indicator of high quality work and professionalism.

On the first day, the focus was on exploring basic concepts of impact assessment and measurement, along with addressing key questions with regards to the ‘whys’ and the ‘hows’ of impact assessment. We also discussed concrete examples of impact-oriented reporting. 

The second day of the training began by introducing the Theory of Change (TOC) as a core concept and starting point for impact analysis, through which the participants could further appreciate the importance of impact measurement for strategic planning, controlling and development of organisations and projects.

Detailed input analyses were conducted, alongside with stakeholder mapping activities, drawing from real examples from the everyday work of the participants, organisations or projects.

Thanks to this process, we were able to better appreciate how TOC and stakeholder mapping can help to develop indicators for impact measurement. Furthermore, it was an opportunity to learn about the use of impact measurement on discussions within the organisation but also towards public audiences such as donors, investors and public authorities.

The last day of the training was a unique opportunity to listen to and to discuss with the guest speakers: Aicha Belassir, Technical Director at FAEDEI on “The perspective of a network of social economy enterprises”; and Lara Viada, principal at CREAS, on “The perspective of a venture philanthropy association”.

Finally, we drew our conclusion together: lessons learnt and how to apply  them to our organisations. Special attention was put on the kind of follow up activities that would be required with regards to continuing the work that has begun and which was highly valued by all the participants.

Consequently, the coordination and facilitation of the necessary processes by Caritas Europa will be vital if we are to accredit and invest on the importance that social impact has in our organisations. It is, after all, a reflection of our work and an effective way to measure, assess and communicate to others the values and efforts that inspire and motivate our daily work.