‘It is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong.’ – John Maynard Keynes
Last year, I attended a two day training course on ‘Social Return on Investment’ (SROI). SROI is a process through which you can determine an approximate (this is important to note) financial value of the social and community work delivered relative to resources you’ve invested (often money).
The process through which a number is determined is somewhat complex and is based on a number of factors including how you rank values such as dignity, confidence and social cohesion against items which have a monetary value.
I will have been the bug bear of the class with the amount of questions I had about the process. Indeed, it is a difficult concept to get your head around when you’ve only worked with hard numbers and facts (such as we – OK, maybe just me – have become trained to do through funders’ requirements) especially when assumptions have to be made within the process.
Sure enough, each participant worked through the calculations and arrived at a monetary value for the outputs the activities had produced, which could then be compared against the cost of the financial input. See below for a sport related example
which looks at the role of sport in creating change:
As the diagram shows – for every £1 invested, the programme was paying out £1.91 in ‘social value’.
Further more, the report stated:
“Sport and exercise prevent or reduce physical and mental health problems and save on health care costs. Furthermore, it found evidence that sports participation improves pro-social behaviour and reduces crime and anti-social behaviour, particularly for young men; promotes bonding social capital and collective action, particularly volunteering; and has a positive effect on educational outcomes, including psychological and cognitive benefits and educational attainment. There is also evidence of a positive relationship between sport participation and subjective wellbeing i.e. life satisfaction or happiness for individuals.”
These outputs have been reflected within the end number through the contribution and savings made on healthcare treatment through increased physical activity and social inclusion.
With the rise of ‘sport for change’ (see the next blog on Club Development for more) and with clubs across Scotland capable of contributing towards some of Scotland’s biggest societial issues (particularly around healthcare), clubs may wish to closer examine their role and impact within their communities through the production of such a report.
It’s worth noting that SROI is not the only form of social reporting, nor is it perfect. The end number can always be debated in some form (especially on account of the assumptions that will have be made by the reporter and there will a lack of consistency across every report in how the end number was calculated) and the amount of time required by a member of staff to gather and analyse the required impact data can feel prohibitive. However, that said, one phrase from the training session has stuck with me and ultimately inspired me to write this blog:
“It is better to be roughly right than exactly wrong”.
Despite its imperfections, the more we know – the more we can improve. The process doesn’t just help organisations understand their benefit, but also whether there is any displacement or unintended consequences arising through their activities while further connecting and increasing the engagement between deliverer and service user.
We’re keen to support clubs through what can be a complicated process and are looking to undertake a couple of case studies with clubs that are delivering grassroots community led work. If you’d like to benefit from some free professional support through this, please do contact us at Club Development Scotland.
By Andrew Jenkin
Head of Club Development Scotland