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A guide to shape social value in Australia

14 October 2021 at 8:14 am
Maggie Coggan
The draft of a new guide is being released for public consultation next week 

Maggie Coggan | 14 October 2021 at 8:14 am


A guide to shape social value in Australia
14 October 2021 at 8:14 am

The draft of a new guide is being released for public consultation next week 

A new guide helping organisations from all sectors to measure their social value in a standardised way could inspire a resurgence of the desire to “build back better” post pandemic, experts say. 

The guide which is currently in its drafting phase will help corporate, government and NFP organisations assess whether the social impact measurement approach they are using is fit for purpose. 

It’s the first time an impact measurement tool that can be applied to such a broad range of sectors has been developed in Australia. The only country to publish a guide of this kind is the UK, while Sweden will follow with a national Social Impact Measurement standard to be drafted later this year.  

Social impact measurement body Huber Social is leading the creation of the guide for Standards Australia, the nation’s peak non-government, not-for-profit standards organisation. 

A committee of social impact and academic organisations are working alongside Huber Social to develop the guide. These organisations include SEAF Impact Investing, Trust Waikato and Oxford University. 

Georgina Camp, CEO and co-founder of Huber Social, told Pro Bono News that as the measurement of social value had become an important part of informing decisions across government budgets, procurement, policy development and private sector investment, there was a need for clarity around how exactly that value was measured. 

“There’s a huge proliferation in terms of how we measure, account for and understand what social value is. And as that gains momentum, as practitioners we are seeing a divergence away from approaches that have integrity,” Camp said. 

“There’s just more and more noise in this space, it’s becoming more confusing, particularly for decision makers in terms of knowing the bad from the good when looking at social value and how much confidence they should have in the findings in front of them.”

For example, a super fund manager deciding which ethical companies to invest in has no easy or standardised way to compare the social value of two companies that measure their social value via different methods.

Camp said she hoped that the guide would consolidate, build on and provide new direction to the work that has gone before, and enable users to choose and apply social impact measurement approaches that help them make better decisions.

The guide is built around eight key principles: 

  1. Measuring social impact in terms of subjective well being.
  2. Measuring the lived experience of people.
  3. Measurement should not assume, impose or reflect external norms.
  4. Measurement should be actionable.
  5. Measurement results should be comparable.
  6. Measurement should be subject to assurance.
  7. Measurement should be transparent.
  8. Measurement should apply the scientific method.

Taking the next step in impact measurement

Rosemary Addis AM, the head of Impact Strategist, said that bringing Standards Australia into the conversation was an important step forward in the importance of measuring social value in Australia. 

“The signalling effect of the standard setter saying this is something that is needed, that more organisations need to report on and measure social value is really important,” Addis told Pro Bono News.

She said that the guide came at a critical time, when despite more money than ever before going into sustainable activity, the progress towards achieving global goals such as the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs) was wavering. 

“More and more organisations are saying they’re aligned with the SDGs, but overall, we’ve gone backwards in terms of the progress, so we need to close that gap,” she said. 

“So being able to measure more effectively and also to have measurement that speaks across the value chain of the different sectors and silos in consistent terms and language is really important.”

Standards Australia will be collecting community input for the guide from 18 October until mid-November. The guide is set to be officially published early 2022. 

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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