Circular for October 2011
List of Contents
News and Developments
Contacts & Coordinators
This edition of the SAN Circular starts by paying tribute to Mike Swain, our Chair, who died recently following a long illness. Our thoughts at this time are with his family.
For over 30 years, Mike was an active community worker in Wolverhampton and the Black Country, championing the interests of communities and empowering residents to play a meaningful role in regenerating their neighbourhoods, and thereby making them better places in which to live and work.
In 1998, Mike supported a partnership of local residents and agencies to establish All Saints Action Network, and became its first employee in 1999. As chief executive, Mike played a key role in developing ASAN to its current position as a development trust, employing over 40 people to deliver a range of much needed services to residents of All Saints and Blakenhall.
In the mid 1990s, whilst with Black Country Housing, Mike championed social accounting and audit (SAA) in the West Midlands and went on to promote Social Accounting and Audit (SAA) across the world.
In his five years as Chair, Mike encouraged a regional approach to SAN – promoting the sharing of local activity and ideas between like minded organizations. In 2005, he set up a cluster of social enterprises all working together to provide mutual support through the SAN process, from which have emerged strong commercial enterprises and a number of valuable and extremely active members of the network!
I first met Mike when I attended a SAN Masterclass in 2006. Hosted by ASAN, the Masterclass gave me an insight to just what was possible in social impact measurement. Mike's practical approach to getting things done made the social accounting process both understandable and achievable. In fact, given that the tutors also included John Pearce, one of the founders of SAN and co-author of the original Manual, and Helen Vines, who provided interesting and interactive ideas for engaging stakeholders, I can truly say that I have been very well trained in SAA!
Mike Swain was also a Board member of Locality (formerly the Development Trusts Association) and helped promote the measurement of social value to its members across the country. Steve Wyler of Locality remembers Mike at the DTA conference in 2008 standing up to ask the question of a packed hall "So you reckon that you are a community enterprise, and you believe that you are making a difference in your local community. But can you really prove that this is the case?" before going on to tell colleagues to seek practical methods to 'prove and improve'.
In honour of his achievements, Mike's family has requested that a memorial fund be established to recognise his life's work. Donations to the Mike Swain Memorial Fund can be made via All Saint's Action Network, 01902 877530.
Mike would be proud to think of how the practice of social accounting has grown over the past few years – some evidence of which can be seen in this newsletter. With commissioners and public sector procurement teams seeking more 'added value' for their reduced money, interest growing across the world in the measurement of social impact and increased competition between social enterprises, frameworks such as SAA are becoming an integral part of the operation of organisations, consortia, projects and programmes....
So why should we have to measure our social impact anyway? Further thoughts
So can we keep account of our social impact as well as everything else that we do?
"Objectives and values are living things that must evolve as people within the organisation change and constantly re-interpret their mission. Social auditing is not therefore simply a means of documenting objectives and shared values, but of understanding them, strengthening them, communicating them to others, and where necessary changing them." SBN Bank
I was asked recently why I still hammer on about social accounting and audit. This question gave me pause to reflect and think about the reasons why I feel social accounting is important - particularly for organisations with a central social purpose. Essentially, it can provide a framework to explain how your organisation achieves its social purpose. It provides the reasons to explain why you do what you do.
Here are some pointers which may be some help...
Before you start, be clear about the reasons why you keep social accounts. It is a good idea to start by finding out more about social accounting and how it could be applied within your organisation. Then, write down the "benefits" and the "snags". Often Third Sector organisations finish up reporting to a myriad of funders showing how they satisfy the objectives of the funder or investor. This is all very well and often necessary but do not lose sight of the fact that you are an independent organisation tackling social and environmental issues in a particular context. The funding is a means to an end and, proverbially, the dog should wag the tail and not the other way around...
Clarify the over-riding framework of your organisation. In social accounting this means being clear about what you do, what you are trying to achieve, how you do it and who you work with. All organisations have some kind of "framework" but as the quote above suggests it has to be re-clarified periodically. In the same way that private companies are constantly examining and monitoring their profit and loss and balance sheets, Third Sector organisations should be checking on their social purpose.
Spend time on analysing your stakeholders. Social accounting encourages organisations to draw stakeholder maps. It is not really enough to list the stakeholders – funders, clients, customers, and so on. It is much more useful to analyse the relationship you have with your stakeholders. Looking closely at this relationship can help with strategy and often reveals new objectives and priorities.
Build on what you already do and the information you already collect. Every organisation keeps records. Sometimes organisations keep data and do not know why; others only keep records for funders' reports; others keep a variety of records in different ways and in different places. Check through what records you do keep and make sure they are directly useful in giving you the information you require to explain your performance as an organisation and the impact on stakeholders. If not, change them.
Focus on the outcomes. Once you have a clear framework and are collecting information, then annually you will report on what you have done well and the degree you have achieved your social purpose. You can list outputs in a tidy table but focus on the outcomes. What has changed as a result of your actions?
Start writing your social accounts as soon as you can. Many organisations collect data and consult stakeholders during the year and only then tackle the reporting stage. The report writing can be daunting, so start writing soon into the process.
Ignore the sceptics and own the process! Lots of people will say social accounting is too complex, too much extra work, too hard... And in some ways if you tack on social accounting as an adjunct to your organisation – then they may be right. However, if you embed the process and make it a reflective technique that is central to what you are, then it is not just another activity but a report on all your activities. Remember it is your process, your monitoring and evaluation, your social report... it may not be perfect the first time round – but as skills develop, your social reporting will be more focussed and your organisation will improve effectiveness...
Hopefully, in the large and extensive scheme of things, you will find some of the above useful. Similar to all processes there is a bit of jargon and tools, and ideas and innovations to understand and cope with. But basically, social accounting and audit is simple – it tells a structured story of how you achieve your purpose; it runs alongside your financial account; and it reminds you why you get up in the morning...
Vice Chair, Social Audit Network;
Will be held in London on 20th April 2012 (not at the end of March as stated in the August edition of this newsletter), and will investigate impact measurement in relation to the delivery of public services. With case stories from both providers of 'people services for social profit' and commissioners of those services, the conference will focus on how services can be commissioned to achieve the maximum 'social profit' and how service providers can accurately report on the outcomes and added value that they have achieved.
Further details of the agenda and speakers will be provided in a later edition of this newsletter.
Scotland – a hotspot of social impact measurement….
Karen Carrick, SROI Programme Manager, greenspace scotland notes:
Research published by greenspace scotland, in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage, shows that every pound invested in activities on urban nature sites returned between £3 and £20 in community benefits.
greenspace scotland worked with staff and volunteers at four urban nature sites to calculate the Social Return on Investment (SROI) of a specific activity on each site. The activities measured included: a gardening project involving young volunteers; an urban mountain bike trail; a programme of outdoor activities for individuals with severe and enduring mental health support needs; and, the educational use of a local reserve by a school EcoClub. In each case, the results demonstrated the multiple benefits of the activity and all four sites delivered a positive return on investment.
Whilst acknowledging that an SROI report provides a clear and transparent case for investment in activity that is supported by compelling evidence, the participating projects found producing the analysis challenging. The process is complex and can be time consuming. In an attempt to address these issues, the report makes recommendations for developing methods of increasing the accessibility of SROI, promoting general understanding of how to identify and measure change and producing model SROI analyses in which all the benefits or attributes of specific types of greenspace are measured and valued.
The overview report and each of the analyses can be found on greenspace scotland's web site at urban nature sites SROI.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Social Enterprise Academy continues to champion the measurement of social impact, aiming to have this as part of a Scottish Government framework contract which will provide support to social enterprise across the country. A thread of this will include support for procurement and commissioning officers in how social impact can be measured.
Scotland continues to be a hive of social accounting and audit activity, with Alan Kay telling me that four enterprises have taken their accounts to panel in the last few months. Alan has also been invited to talk at Edinburgh University about social impact measurement, before going to South Korea to help set up SAN Korea!
News and Developments
News of social accounting in Cheshire
Cheshire and Warrington Social Enterprise Partnership organised a half day introduction to Social Accounting and Audit (SAA) for Social Enterprises. The catalyst for this event had been work done by former SAN Board member, Graham Waterhouse at a Cheshire networking event (Chester Voluntary Action funding conference) earlier this year. Graham gathered a lot of interest and a list of over 20 organisations signing up and keen to learn more.
Liz Brooks-Allen led an workshop for an initial group of 8 Social Enterprises and feedback was positive, with a follow up 1 day event planned for early October.
Following a year of occasional support from Matthew Lanham, Deafness Support Network brought their first set of Accounts to Panel on 14th September. This was a remarkable achievement given that the organisation had lost the CEO who had initially sponsored SAA in October 2010, with their replacement staying only 4 weeks, and the second new CEO appointed declined to take up the role of leading social accounting!
The Neuro Muscular Center (NMC) submitted their Social Accounts to panel on 20th September. This was the fifth year running NMC had produced a full set of Social Accounts. Lisa McMullan chaired the panel which included Cheshire West's Director of Adult Social Care and the CEO of the local Clinical Commissioning Consortium – a strong and influential panel indeed!
Matthew has also done some "foundation level" work with Cheshire branch of National Autistic Society helping them to use SAA tools/approach to measure value of their short breaks programme, and Shropshire's Parent and Carer Council to measure outcomes for their face to face support programme working with families with disabled children. His findings included that there is clearly demand from this sort of small voluntary group without paid resource for a "lower level" easy to use social impact measurement toolkit.
Yorkshire and the Humber Region
Sheffield Mencap & Gateway and Star Enterprise Work & Play have drafted their first sets of social accounts for the year ending 31st August 2011. Panel meetings are arranged for Wednesday 28th September and Wednesday 19th October.
Focusing on their objectives and beliefs through the social accounting process has helped both organisations prepare tenders and funding applications. For example Star Enterprise Work and Play have won an award to deliver more evenings in night clubs for adults with learning difficulties throughout the country, for the past year they worked only in South Yorkshire. Linked to this Star Enterprise Work and Play trains their clients in making music, DJing, producing publicity and working front of house.
Mary McGarry recently delivered a short presentation to the Sheffield Volunteer Coordinators Form on Social Accounting and Audit which generated a lot of interest in the process. Ten people attended a three hour introductory workshop on 22nd September and several organisations have decided to start preparing accounts. Mary has offered to visit organisations on an 'expenses only' basis to help them through the process over the next six months. email@example.com.
Social Audit - Quality Assurance
A note for all auditors and regional co-ordinators – please continue to return a completed Quality Assurance Questionnaire after each panel, both for information and so any issues can be addressed promptly.
SAN keeps a list of trainees who wish to observe or to be mentored chairing a social audit panel, so please ask for their contact details when arranging a panel.
Furthermore, please keep the SAN office informed about all the social audit panels taking place in Britain and world-wide. This helps us to gauge the level of activity. Increased publicity about what is taking place in each region will make more people aware of the value of social accounting for demonstrating the impact of the services they provide. This is vital in the current economic climate if business and social organisations of all sizes are going to survive.
Auditors are asked to check their details on the website and let SAN know of any changes, plus new wording if you wish to refresh your biography. Any auditors who have not completed their 2010/11 annual return and/or paid their 2011/12 fee are asked to do so urgently, details are available from the SAN office.
Mary McGarry firstname.lastname@example.org
SAN Training Programme
SAN has recently updated its training programme, with a number of new events across England and Scotland over the coming months. SAN can run several types of training event: the two day Social Accounting Prove, Improve and Account (PIA) course; the one day Social Auditor Workshop for people want to audit social accounts; a one day Introduction to Social Accounting and Audit; a half day Taster on social accounting; and a Measuring Social Impact course. All these courses use the new Guide to Social Accounting and Audit. There is also a one day training course for those involved in training/facilitating the PIA using the new Guide - participants are usually invited to attend this course and comes with an electronic "package".
The PIA works through the Four Steps of the Social Accounting and Audit process and is designed for people who either wish to use social accounting in their own organisation or wish to assist other organisations prepare social accounts... For more information and list of upcoming events check out the SAN website.
SAN Practice Case Studies
SAN is always looking for organisations to feature as Case Studies in both this newsletter and on the SAN website. A number of these have been prepared following the SAN research project.
There are now 26 Case studies on the SAN website, accompanied by a handy directory feature to help you select the best for your needs.
To visit the Case Studies page....
The United Kingdom Parliament Public Services
The United Kingdom Parliament Public Services (Social Enterprise and Social Value) Bill 2010-11 Update - Provisional Sitting of the House of Commons Committee stage will be on 12th October 2011. SAN understands that it is likely to progress unopposed through the next stages towards becoming law in the summer of 2012.
A list of influential social investors has signed a letter endorsing a global initiative to increase the scale and performance of investment channelled towards solving the world's most pressing problems. The 29 investors include key figures from large-scale financial institutions, asset managers, development finance institutions, institutional foundations, and investment funds. They have all pledged support to IRIS, the Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS) run by the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) and the Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS) initiative.
Full story at http://www.socialenterpriselive.com/section/social-investment/money/20110911/key-impact-investors-endorse-global-reporting-initiative
Details of Impact Reporting & Investment Standards, or IRIS are at http://iris.thegiin.org/