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Standard Conversion as a Guardian of Impact Measurement

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Summary: Standard Conversion points out the future direction of improvements in current impact measurement approaches.

Standards conversion is the best method to identify impact measurement and management framework’s limitations. The Impact Measurement Norms framework is the only consensus that can help to ensure whether the currently used way to measure impact has omitted any essential elements.

Impact Management Norms (IMN)

The Impact Management Norms (IMN) represent the consensus on how to measure, improve and disclose the impacts of intervention activities that thousands of entrepreneurs and investors under the Impact Management Project in the period 2016-2018 reached. This consensus provides a common logic to understand impacts, facilitating efforts to reduce negative and increase positive impacts. IMN’s analytical framework comprises five dimensions: WHO, WHAT, HOW MUCH, CONTRIBUTION, and RISK, and each dimension contains some categories.¹

Conversion of SROI Report to Article Complying with IMN Framework

The Social Return on Investment (SROI) is an impact analysis tool the Social Value International (SVI) has promoted for decades. The SROI features the presentation of intangible influence in monetary units by applying financial proxies, enabling impacts to be measured and compared. SROI is a publicly accessible measurement tool. The SVI examines whether reports submitted for review comply with the eight principles of application of SROI(Understand what changes, Value the things that matter, Only include what is material, Do not over-claim, Be transparent, Verify the result, and Be responsive).²

The use of SROI to measure impact has become popular, but there has been no discussion of converting such reports into documents adopting the IMN framework. Therefore we should ask what the challenges to converting SROI reports into papers complying with IMN are? Answering this question is essential to identify the limitations of the current development of the two measurement tools mentioned above.

Using one SVI-assured report titled “Realising and rebuilding resilience: A Social Return on Investment evaluation of the Wellsprings Women’s Support Program” as an example, this article attempts to respond to the question above. Figure 1 below displays the sample report’s table of contents.

¹ For more information about the contents of each dimension, please see this webpage: https://impactfrontiers.org/norms/five-dimensions-of-impact/
² For more information about the contents of each principle, please see this webpage: https://www.socialvalueint.org/principles

Figure 1 Sample Report’s Table of Contents
Source: Feinstein, J., Lightfoot, S., & Young, S. (2021). Realising and Rebuilding Resilience: A Social Return on Investment evaluation of the Wellsprings Women’s Support Program. Melbourne, VIC: Think Impact.

In addition, follow-up discussions also consider the six stages of SROI, namely establishing scope and identifying key stakeholders; mapping outcomes; evidencing outcomes and giving them a value; establishing impact; calculating the SROI, and Reporting (Nicholls, Lawlor, Neitzert, Goodspeed, & Cupitt, 2012). These six stages correspond to data collection, analysis, and dissemination. See Figure 2 for a better understanding of the correspondence.

Figure 2 Six Stages of SROI
Source: Banke-Thomas, Madaj, Charles, and Broek (2015, p. 584)

Table 1 excerpts the findings of this analysis. In the WHO dimension, except Outcome Level at Baseline, information about the other three categories is accessible in the sample report’s Chapters 1 and 2. Regarding activities, the WHO dimension primarily corresponds to the SROI’s Stage 1. 

In the WHAT dimension, except Outcome threshold, information about the other three categories is accessible in the sample report’s Chapters 2, 3, and 5. In terms of activities, the WHAT dimension primarily corresponds to the SROI’s Stage 2.

In both the HOW MUCH and CONTRIBUTION dimension, information about their categories is accessible in the sample report’s appendixes. Regarding activities, the two dimensions correspond to the SROI’s Stage 5.

In the RISK dimension, information about their categories is accessible in the sample report’s Chapter 9. In terms of activities, the RISK dimensions correspond to none of the six stages of the SROI. Unlike other dimensions, the RISK doesn’t correspond to any of the six stages of the SROI.

DimensionCategoriesCorresponding 
chapters
SROI Analysis Stage
WHOGeographical BoundaryChapter 1 & 2Stage 1 – Establishing Scope And Identifying Key Stakeholders
StakeholdersChapter 1 & 2
Stakeholder characteristicsChapter 2
Outcome Level at BaselineNot available
WHATOutcome Level in PeriodChapter 3Stage 2 – Mapping Outcomes
Importance of Outcome to StakeholdersChapter 5Stage 2 – Mapping Outcomes
Outcome thresholdNot available
SDGChapter 2
HOW MUCHScaleAppendixSROI Analysis Stage 5: Calculating SROI
DepthAppendix
DurationAppendix
CONTRIBUTIONOutcome level counterfactualAppendixSROI Analysis Stage 5: Calculating SROI
RISKRisk TypeChapter 9
Risk LevelChapter 9
Table 1 Summary of Standard Conversion

To sum up, converting SROI-assured reports to articles complying with the Impact Management Norms framework encounters several challlenges, suggesting some points worthy of noticing.  

  • Presenting the value of impacts in monetary units, which SROI features, receive little mention in the five dimensions the IMN highlights, suggesting the sections of SROI reports that deal with financial proxies and the calculation can be ignored. 
  • SROI reports hardly offer information about the level of outcomes before intervention activities and the thresholds for judging whether outcomes are positive or negative, leaving blanks in several parts of the conversion paper. 
  • SROI reports mostly do not explicitly mention to which SDG the activities in question relate and the risks their activities may encounter. 

Although standard conversion has some limitations, it identifies the missing parts of the already-used impact measurement tool. That ensures organizations what kind of pieces of information they need to or don’t have to provide to identify activities outcomes even better. Moreover, it is also possible to understand the quality of the used impact standard and reconsider using another one in the future. 

Reference

  1. Banke-Thomas, A. O., Madaj, B., Charles, A., & Broek, N. v. d. (2015). Social Return on Investment (SROI) methodology to account for value for money of public health interventions: a systematic review. BMC Public Health (2015) 15:582, 15, 582-596.
  2. Feinstein, J., Lightfoot, S., & Young, S. (2021). Realising and Rebuilding Resilience: A Social Return on Investment evaluation of the Wellsprings Women’s Support Program. Melbourne, VIC: Think Impact. https://socialvalueuk.org/report/realising-and-rebuilding-resilience-a-social-return-on-investment-evaluation-of-the-wellsprings-womens-support-program/
  3. Nicholls, J., Lawlor, E., Neitzert, E., Goodspeed, T., & Cupitt, S. (2012). A Guide to Social Return on Investment: The SROI Network. Accounting for Value.

To cite this article, please use:

Hsieh, Shangpo. (2022, October 5th). Standard Conversion as a Guardian of Impact Measurement. https://aimr.asia/articles/entry/standard-conversion-as-a-guardian-of-impact-measurement/

About the Author

Shangpo Hsieh

Shangpo Hsieh, with a PhD from the Australian National University, is currently a Research Fellow at the Asian Institute for Impact Measurement and Management (AIIMM) and an associate practitioner with Social Value International (SVI).

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