Social Return on investment (or SROI), is an approach to understand and manage the value of the social, economic and environmental outcomes created by an activity or an organisation. It is based on a set of principles that are applied within a framework, for example a Social Enterprise serving a certain need in society.
In addtion, SROI seeks to include the values of people often excluded from markets in the same terms as used in markets. Moreover, SROI can be seen as a framework to structure thinking and understanding. Another similar method which has been developed in Sweden is called “Socioekonomisk bokslut – socio economical accounting“ which has been around for long time.
The method uses alternative cost accounting in which one measures the costs of not making a certain activity. For exampe a person with drug problems who is not commiting crimes and starts to work because of a specific programme will largely benefit society.
The method has come up with how to calucalate that cost or benefit seen from a societal view. A number of activities in Sweden has been done over the years to promote and learn more about impact measurement. One of the bigger ones was a SROI training course carried out among actors of the social economy.
The course’s aim was to give the participants support and increased confidence in carrying out an SROI analysis and to increase its spread. In general most actors in society should be interested in impact analysis in one way or another. It can be from the governmental, regional and local authorities.
Social entrepreneurs ‘impact measurement’ is an important tool to verbalize what they are doing and also to understand the values they create for various stakeholders.
Actors supporting SROI
1) Institute for Social and Ecological Economics. This is run by Ingvar Nilsson and Anders Wadeskog, pioneers of the Impact Measurement field in Sweden. The institute has developed the “Socio-Economic Accounting method“ discussed earlier. Moreover they have recently started, in January 2015, a 3-year project supported by Postkodlotteriet to develop a Social Impact Bond which could fit the Swedish context.
2) SERUS This for-profit business has promoted and supported the development of SROI in Sweden since 2011. Reports and general services, mainly in Swedish, can be found at: http://www.sroi.se/ and on the SERUS homepage: http://serus. se/; Comprehensive report on the SOUL project run by SERUS: http://www.sroi.se/filer/SROI-report_The_advanced_ SROI_training_course.pdf
3) Pay-Off This for-profit business has developed a certification programme for Socio-Economic analysis. They provide general support for evaluations and action-learning research. http://www.payoff.se/index.php
4) Sofisam Non-Profit supporting the development of WISE. They have come up with several reports on how to apply SROI, Socioeconomic accounting, etc. Among others this mapping can be used/and are used in other countries outside Sweden
In general few social enterprises in Sweden have specific reports related to impact measurement. Instead many of them put the information on their homepages. Likely the most comprehensive report on Impact Measurement of a Swedish Social Enterprise was done by Vägen ut. One can find a combination of storytelling and quantitative data, including a socio-economy accounting report.