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Ontario Government Impact Measurement Task Force recommendations resonate with newly formed Social Value Canada

As members of the Board of Social Value Canada, we were happy to see the Ontario Government invest resources into a Strategy and Task Force that amplify impact in Ontario through a common approach to impact measurement. The Ontario Government recently released a report “Amplifying the impact of Ontario’s social enterprise community: An Action Plan towards a common approach to impact measurement.” You can read all about the Strategy and Task Force behind the report here. In reading the report, we found that the recommendations of the Impact Measurement Task Force resonate with work of Social Value Canada.

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What is Social Value Canada? Social Value Canada (SVC) is the recently re-launched merger between SROI Canada and Social Impact Analysts Association. As a member of Social Value International, the mission of SVC is simple: to change the way that society accounts for value. We think we need to continue to align our efforts towards a common, rigorous, evidence-based and data-driven way to measure the social and environmental value of our work.

The key takeaways from the recommendations are the need to create a standardized approach and supporting infrastructure to measure the value and impact of social enterprises. To do this, the Task Force recommends:

  • Establish a data centre - including a technical platform; as well as, standards of data quality to ensure access and usage.
  • Set up a Centre of Excellence - to oversee and guide the shared framework.
  • Develop a common process for impact measurement - these are five key steps in an effective impact measurement process, but does not prescribe a common methodology. Many of the methods that social enterprises currently use - like the Social Return on Investment (SROI) Theory of Change, and various impact dashboards - are consistent with this common process. The five steps are:
    1. Engage Stakeholders
    2. Set objectives
    3. Measure results
    4. Assess and value impact
    5. Report
  • Develop a common framework of core social and environmental indicators - leveraging the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Develop a common set of organizational indicators - such as financial indicators and sector classifications.
Adopting these approaches across the social enterprise ecosystem that would contribute to the goal of better measuring impact for social value.
SVC uses a principle-based approach to common impact measurement (created by Social Value International). The seven principles provide the foundation for anyone who wants to take a rigorous approach to measuring impact and to make decisions that take a broader definition of value into account. This is important because measuring social impact is not just about assigning a numeric value to a set of activities. For SVC, following these principles is about creating a better world - with more social equality, stewardship of the environment and wellbeing.
The Social Value Principles are:
  1. Involve Stakeholders
  2. Understand the change
  3. Value what matters
  4. Focus on materiality
  5. Don't over-claim
  6. Be transparent
  7. Verify the results
The Task Force also recommends linking measures of impact of social enterprises to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We would go further to say that the indicators should be linked to local or national indices as well. There are a number of efforts currently underway to define, track and measure wellbeing across communities in a standardized way. The most recent example of this in Ontario is the Canadian Index of Wellbeing’s release of five regional reports mapping the CIW indicators to local communities.
As the work unfolds in this field, this report sparks some food for thought. Here are just two ideas:
  • A Centre of Excellence with a central repository of data sounds like a gold mine for most of us data-driven nerds. But, would all social enterprises and other organizations really relinquish their data to a quasi-public and/or academic entity? What’s in it for them and what would the data governance look like?
  • Creating a common set of social enterprise indicators stemming from the SDGs is one way to approach it – and for those of us who agree with the values and principles of the SDGs, it can very well be a great idea, if successful. However, we acknowledge that not everyone agrees with this approach – and that the devil is in the details of implementation. We look forward to seeing more discussion on the practical linkages and implications for application to Canada as the work continues

We believe that the newly formed Social Value Canada can contribute to move this agenda forward. We think that we can contribute to this process by being champions of a rigorous, evidence-based, neutral approach. We can support by continuing to build the capacity and know-how of the Canadian professionals in impact measurement. We can continue the conversation on accounting for social and environmental value in the social enterprise sector and beyond.

What is great about the task force plan is it sees a common approach to impact measurement as a process that must be continually evolved and adapted. It will become more complex as Ontario social enterprises become equipped for that complexity. We look forward to helping to make that happen.

Stay tuned for more analysis and insights from us as the work of Social Value Canada continues to take off.

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