Does the work we do achieve our overall goals? Are we actually contributing to the change we want to see in society? How do we know?

Supporting Communities wants to get the heart of the matter - to measure and understand the impact that our work has for the communities, individuals and organisations with whom we work. In short, what are the real benefits? How did lives change? What is the story of that change?

Measuring the tangible costs and outputs of a community activity is relatively straightforward. We know what the inputs are (e.g. the funding, equipment or volunteers needed to run the activity) and what the outputs of a group are (e.g. the number of people participating in the activity), but the greater challenge is quantifying the wider social, economic and environmental outcomes the community groups are delivering. This is what social value does.

Social Value

Examples of social value might be the value community members experience from increasing their confidence or living near green space; or it could be the value of the time the community group has spent collaborating with other organisations to improve health services in a local area.

Supporting Communities asked Rose Regeneration to use an online tool called the Social Value Engine to help us identify and measure the social value of the outcomes achieved by our work.

Through working closely with Rose Regeneration, we we have begun to build our capacity to undertake future analysis of the social value our organisation creates.

This information can be used to:

  • understand where our organisation is having the most impact

  • make decisions about where to invest resources

  • demonstrate the value of our activity to funders and other stakeholders

Results - Mid & East Antrim

 Supporting Communities Social Return on Investment for Community Development Work done in Mid & East Antrim

Supporting Communities Social Return on Investment for Community Development Work done in Mid & East Antrim

To begin this process, we have initially looked in detail at one of our 13 geographical operational areas. The analysis identifies a number of key impacts:

  • The level of Social Return on Investment achieved: £9.55:£1 is a good level of achievement and towards the upper end of the scale for achievement in the context of community development activity

  • The value of volunteer time generated by our Community Development Officer and her colleagues is very significant in terms of the overall input to the generation of the outcomes identified

  • The key rationale behind the work of Supporting Communities, namely to engage, facilitate and support groups to take more responsibility for their own affairs, is strongly reflected in the following key areas:

    • ACTIVE, INCLUSIVE AND SAFE - Fair, tolerant and cohesive with a strong local culture and other shared community activities

    • WELL RUN - With effective and inclusive participation, representation and leadership

    • FAIR FOR EVERYONE - Including those in other communities, now and in the future

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Next Steps

We intend to use the Social Value Engine to evaluate our work in other areas, using the analysis to better target our resources in ways that will provide the best outcomes and overall impact for communities.

Our Funding and Social Value Officer will also be providing impact awareness sessions to empower communities to better understand social value and work towards assessing their own Social Return on Investment.