Circular for November 2013

List of Contents


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Contacts & Coordinators

Social Audit Network November 2013

Welcome to this month's SAN newsletter, containing news and articles about the practice of social accounting and audit, and measuring social value, from across the UK and around the world.

The Social Audit Network promotes and supports social accounting and audit as the preferred means for organisations operating in the community, social economy and public sectors to report on their social, environmental and economic performance.

SAN is here to help you understand what you do - the Guide to Social Accounting and Audit helps a social accounting team to consider the internal workings of an organisation through the compilation of the Key Aspects Checklist. This simple checklist looks at how an organisation treats its staff, how it is governed, what it does with profit/surplus, how it remains financially sustainable, what is its impact on the environment and how it postively affects the local economy.

It's also here to help you improve - Social Accounting and Audit is not only about results but it is also about the process of understanding change and looking at how organisations can improve their performance as well as their impact via outcomes.  Social Accounting and Audit is there to help organisations be more effective and not just demonstrate how attractive they are for the so-called 'social investors'....

Social Accounting and Audit is not perfect.   But it has learnt from working with and for organisations - and continues to learn about methods and approaches that can fit into its overall framework. The framework is for an organisation with a central social purpose  to be clear about what it wants to do and with whom; collect meaningful information that allows judgements to be made; bring it together into a draft report and get that scrutinised by an independent panel - providing credence and integrity to the conclusions contained in the report.


Measuring Social Impact

'Measuring Social Impact' is proving to be a popular workshop in Scotland. Fully prescribed with 15 people attending the workshop in Dundee on 24th October and already full for the Glasgow one on 13th December. The workshop is an introduction to 'measuring social impact' and mainly concentrates on the essentials of Social Accounting and Audit and Social Return on Investment. The MSI workshops are run by the Social Enterprise Academy, delivered by a SAN Director (Alan Kay) and supported and subsidised by Just Enterprise ( part of a Scottish Government contract).

Highland Homecarers (Inverness), Five Lamps (Stockton), Shared Interest (Newcastle) and the Women's Organisation (Liverpool) are all going to a Social Audit Panel in November.

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Social value - What do Commissioners and funders actually want?

Given the surge of interest in ‘social value’, the rapid expansion of support and advice available, and the wide variety of tools available to help an organisation measure their social value – are we in danger of everyone getting confused and losing the plot?

‘Social value’ is difficult to measure – it can be subjective, fluctuate with opinions, and often there are no standard units to use…

Commissioners and funders say that they know what they want, but do they know what to call it? A recent workshop that I attended on ‘social value’ uncovered a huge gap between commissioners and local organisations in the social economy, and this was mostly down to the terminology used.

Here are some examples of words and phrases which can cause misunderstanding:
‘Social’ value – according to the Act, this includes social, environmental and economic value (so not just more local employment or a fair wage for all). The ‘environmental’ aspect appears to be disappearing from commissioners’ lists – when so much could and has been achieved in terms of waste reduction, sensible energy use and support for work to improve ‘place’. The ‘economic’ value can also get confused with financial measures for social value, rather than impact upon the local economy.

‘Social Impact’ – implies lasting change, when most social economy organisations will tell you that there is social value in the way that they operate – outcomes or benefits, perhaps, but not necessarily impacts.

‘Social Return on Investment’ – does this always mean the impact measurement tool? At my workshop, use of this term by commissioners in the room sent the smaller social economy organisations into a spin; believing that SROI was to be specified for use by all providers. Clarification showed that the commissioners saw a social return from their investment as one of the main aspects of ‘social value’. They didn’t mind which tool was to be used to measure it, they just wanted to have it.

‘Measured’ – another sticking point – commissioners wanted numbers, values and things that they could count or see. The social economy organisations argued that this is not possible for everything… and that use of the word ‘measured’ or measurement’ leads to expectations which are difficult to meet. Does there always have to be a finite value to ‘social’?

Are commissioners and funders too busy looking for a measurable thing that is social value? That would make their tender assessments and payment by results easier – but does this completely miss the point when the outcomes / changes required are around increased community aspirations or resilience?

Having worked as a financial and internal auditor in local government, this is why I like social accounting and audit so much – it’s a framework, which if followed accurately, can be verified by an independent auditor. It doesn’t matter what you are measuring, or how much of it, whether it can only be measured qualitatively, or what the commissioner / funder is asking for. Instead, the commissioner or funder will know that what they are being told that they have ‘got’ for their social investment is what they actually have received as a return on their money! There are audited accounts to prove it.

Finally, with the lack of standard terminology around social value – two pleas to all commissioners and funders; firstly, be careful to state what you actually mean, and secondly, before you do that, be clear what you really do want….

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Train as a social accountant! Essential for anyone interested in demonstrating social impact and social value.

The two day Prove, Improve and Account (PIA) Workshop is aimed at people who wish to understand social accounting and auditing either to facilitate the process with social economy organisations or to use it within their own organisations.

The workshop covers all the steps required to obtain information to produce a set of social accounts and explains the social audit process.

Thinking it Through – understanding what social accounting and audit is and how it benefits organisations.
Step One. What difference do we want to make…?
Step Two. How do we know we’re making a difference…?
Step Three. What is the difference we’re making…?
Step Four. Can we prove we made a difference…?

The cost is £375 including a copy of the social accounting and audit guide & CD. (£350 if you already have a manual & CD). The Workshop will go through the social accounting and audit process in detail from the perspective of a facilitator/trainer.

Forthcoming PIA dates:

Wednesday 13th-Thursday 14th November, The Workspace, Wolverhampton, WV2 1EL

For more information and bookings, please contact the Social Audit Network on 0151 706 8121 or
For other training and dates,

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Making a Difference

The Social Audit Network

Conference & Annual Gathering

Newcastle University Business School

5 Barrack Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4SE

Friday 4th April 2014

Speakers will include:

  • Prof Tony Chapman (Durham University)
  • Chi Onwurah MP
  • Prof John Wilson (Newcastle University Business School)
  • Tris Lumley (New Philanthropy Capital)

And workshops are planned, including:

  • Social Accounting for Housing
  • Social Accounting for Transport
  • Social Accounting for Leisure
  • The Social Audit Process
  • Priorities for SAN in the North East

Tony Chapman is a Professorial Fellow at St Chad's College, Durham University. Tony has been working on a range of projects for the last few years on the impact of the third sector on communities. In particular he has focused on the role of social enterprises. He is also interested on the role of third sector organisations in promoting the interests of young people. Recent and current projects have been undertaken for Cabinet Office, National Youth Agency, Northern Rock Foundation, Telefonica Foundation, Involve Yorkshire and Humber and a number of local authorities in North East England.

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Social Enterprise UK Awards 2013

socialsquare.jpgKeen social accountants at the NeuroMuscular Centre (NMC) in Winsford, Cheshire, are celebrating having been shortlisted in the Social Enterprise UK Awards 2013 in the Social Impact category – their pitch was around their commitment to, and proven track record of, Social Accounting and Audit over a 7 year period.

Chief Executive Matthew Lanham said ‘Hopefully we’ll have even better news to report at the end of November when the winners are announced! Thanks to all those who encouraged us to apply.’

NMC also support SAN by designing our website and keeping information about social accounting and audit coming to our members.

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Contacts and Coordinators

North East England

Julie Gowland

South East

Barbara Beaton

South Central England

Dave Furze

North West England

Liz Brooks Allen and Anne Lythgoe

West Midlands and East Midlands

Iftikar Karim (until June 2016) and Sean Smith

Yorkshire and Humber

Bernie Speight

South West England

Helen Vines

Northern Ireland

Peter MacCafferty