Why Impact Measurement is Essential for Social Investment

NESIC board member, Sally Thomas, discusses the importance of measuring the impact of social investment to affect real change. 

Measuring the impact of your services is vital in understanding the difference you’re making to social need. Whether you’re a charity or social enterprise, impact measurement is essential in making your resources work more effectively and efficiently.

As a board member of the North East Social Investment Company (NESIC), we are committed to raising awareness of the benefits of social enterprise and developing the market for social investment in the North East. This includes ensuring that the social investments made as part of our £10.2 million North East Social Investment Fund, managed by Northstar Ventures on our behalf, achieves its maximum potential in effecting real social change in the region.

In order to do this, we have to measure what we do by way of investments to assess how the funds are contributing to the performance of the social enterprise we invest into and its objectives.  This in turn helps us to understand what is working well and identify any adjustments that might need to be made for the enterprise to successfully continue tackling the big social challenges faced by the North East. 

Impact measurement must be simple, proportionate and meaningful if it is to work. This means deciding which issues are the most important who they are important to, to clearly define your research questions in advance. 

At NESIC we use a similar system to demonstrate the impact we can deliver over the lifetime of an investment programme to the investees, partners, stakeholders and other interested parties and audiences.

We always start by identifying the outcomes we want to achieve on the region, our investees and their beneficiaries. We then aim to assess and measure the amount we invest and its application against these outcomes. Finally, we report regularly on the impact, adjusting our investment activity to reflect the lessons we learn from the process of measurement and the results.

We’ve been applying this approach with all investees of the North East Social Investment Fund so that we can show them that the investments we make into social enterprises are worthwhile and positively impacting the region.

Recently, we’ve been working closely with The Social Innovation Partnership to make improvements to our own impact measurement system. Meaning we can capture more outcomes more effectively to demonstrate the need for social investment in the North East. We will continue to improve and adjust the way we measure what we do as we learn more in order to ensure we can assess the overall impact of what we invest in as clearly and accurately as possible.