‘Be Responsive’ – the new principle for SROI evaluation

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‘Be Responsive’ – the new principle for SROI evaluation

Written by Kevin Robbie, Emily Hsu and Alischa Ross | 1st August 2022

The 8 Principles – image source SVI

The principles of social return on investment (SROI) provide an internationally recognised and consistent approach for understanding and measuring the social, environmental and economic value of a program, organisation or policy. Whilst the principles have been developed primarily for SROI they are a great benchmark for anyone carrying out an impact measurement or social impact analysis/assessment of any kind.

Governed by Social Value International (SVI), the global network focused on the way society accounts for value, the principles have been developed from cost-benefit analysis, social impact evaluation and social accounting and draw on methodologies in economics and social research.

Recently, Social Value International (SVI) has introduced a new eighth principle of, ‘Be Responsive’. The focus of this principle is on continuous improvement through driving change as a result of what has been learned through the SROI evaluation.

This principle represents a progression of the existing SVI principles and reflects the need to not only measure the change experienced by stakeholders, but also act on understanding where value is being created (or not being created). While the existing principles (such as ‘Involve stakeholders’ and ‘Only include what is material’) generally relate to the methodology of SROI and are there to guide those producing an SROI, this new principle focuses on the people who manage and influence organisational development.

‘Be Responsive’ is the call to action following the completion of a social impact study. The principle reflect the question that organisations should ask themselves when reviewing evaluation results:

This is the impact we have – now what?

The Standard for Principle 8: Be Responsive explicitly adds ‘decision making’ and ‘impact management’ to SVI’s well-established framework for ‘accounting for value’.

According to SVI, ‘Be Responsive’ reflects the need for organisations to be accountable to their stakeholders – the people whose lives they affect. As SVI CEO Ben Carpenter states:

“Responding means making changes to an organisation’s goods or services, their strategies and even their business models in order to increase the net positive value they are creating for those people.”

Think Impact’s aim is to support organisations to manage for better impact. It clearly represented in this new principle, which makes explicit the previously implicit expectation that in seeking to understand their impact, organisations should also response to any findings.

‘The addition of the ‘Be Responsive’ principle really adds the focus of ‘what are you doing differently on the basis of what you have learnt’ and that can only be a good thing’. Kevin Robbie, Managing Director Think Impact.

What does ‘Being Responsive’ look like in practice?

According to Think Impact’s associate director Rebecca Cain, the new principle requires organisations to understand the data they are presented with and be both reflective and active based on the insight gained.

‘It is not just a way of evaluating but a way of operating. Organisations must firstly understand ‘what impact do we have?’ and with this information go on to ask, ‘what will we be doing differently now that we know this?’ They should continue engaging with stakeholders, to whom their responsibility and accountability does not cease with the conclusion of the evaluation’.

Meaningful implementation of this new principle may occur in a number of ways. It might look like the setting of new organizational strategies in order to achieve better outcomes for stakeholders, or it may involve the improving existing activities to implement learnings. To implement the imperative of ‘Be Responsive’ will require organisations to respond to impact measurement with constant reflection and a willingness to adapt to achieve continuous improvement.

Looking to the future

‘Be Responsive’ represents a shift in social evaluation highlighting the responsibility of organisations to their stakeholders. While limited resources and other external factors may present challenges to implement action in response to social impact evaluations, Think Impact firmly believes it is time for a principle like ‘Be Responsive’.

‘As a standard setter for social impact evaluation, SVI has a responsibility to be pushing boundaries and introducing a forward-looking principle like Be Responsive raises the standards for everyone involved in social impact evaluation’ says Kevin Robbie .

Combatting inequality and improving wellbeing cannot be achieved by only changing the way the world accounts for value. We need to go further and change the way decision-makers respond to impact data, assign responsibility for action and continuously improve to optimize impact. By highlighting the expectation that organisations uphold their responsibility to stakeholders, ‘Be Responsive’ is an important step towards ensuring an explicit focus on embedding a management approach to achieving better impact.

For more details on the Be Responsive principle and to download a copy of the Standard for Principle 8 please visit SVI here