Understanding Social Impact


03 Apr 2019

Social impact is an area which can cause difficulty for VCSE organisations when it comes to knowing what to capture, how much information to track, how often and then how to communicate this effectively to different audiences both internal and external.

There are a number of myths that surround this topic area especially when it comes to what social investors require. 

The Communicating Impact event we held recently in partnership with UNW was designed to help dispel the misconceptions surrounding social impact reporting.  

It was oversubscribed, showing the interest in and demand for more information on the subject, over 50 people attended and many more were put onto a waiting list.

Four speakers gave different viewpoints and experience of social impact: Peter Deans of Business Mind Social Purpose, Simon Gerry CEO of Newcastle Students Union, Dan Ellis founder of Jam Jar Cinema, and our own Investment Manager Allison Collins talked about what it is, how it can be measured, communicated, and used.

The first talk was around the do’s and don’ts of communicating a VCSE organisation’s impact in the most meaningful, valuable and cost-effective way. This was delivered by independent management consultant Peter Deans of Business Mind Social Purpose. A series of fantastic examples of different organisations approaches to communicating their impact in stimulating, and engaging ways were provided, as well as a sound overview of all of the component parts that go into thinking about how to capture and communicate an organisation’s impact for a variety of different audiences. 

Simon Gerry CEO of Newcastle University’s Students Union with Raff Marioni (President of the Students Union) provided a presentation as to how they communicate the various areas of impact the University’s student body achieves each year and how this is reported to its key stakeholders, through both video content, mini pocket reviews and annual reports.

Dan Ellis, Founder of Jam Jar Cinema, a community focused cinema serving Whitley Bay and North Tyneside, which was established as a charitable social enterprise and has blossomed from a small group of volunteers into a major regeneration project for the coast. welcoming over 50,000 visitors a year and employing 12 staff, described how social impact measurement underpins the ambition of the venue: to be local, different, affordable and positive. Dan offered insights into how Jam Jar Cinema had recently commissioned a framework for tracking the organisations impact and described how this is about to be used to achieve impact but also a commercial advantage.

Alison Collins, Investment Manager at Northstar Ventures described the importance of clearly communicating impact from the North East Social Investment Fund’s point of view and outlined that being realistic in terms of what each VCSE organisation can capture within its own remit and capacity, having a blend of both numbers and stories in terms of the benefits services users experience, capturing the actual user’s voice, giving an honest account, as well as keeping it simple is the best approach. Above all else she described that the benefit of communicating impact successfully is to maximise each VCSE organisation’s own learning and improvement, forward planning and to facilitate positive growth.

Questions were raised by the participants about how they could fine tune their own internal social reporting, how flexible a social investor is when it comes to monitoring impact, as well as financial information and how impact reporting differs between grant funders and social investors. Several one to ones were held with delegates after the talks and Q&A to discuss the areas raised during the talks in more detail.

Posted By
Peter Gilson

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