Why measuring impact is vital to a successfully run social enterprise

In her latest blog, our CFO Marion Vayson de Pradenne discusses why 'impact' is central to our work and what we are doing to be an impact-focused organisation.

How can we be a successful social enterprise if we are not certain about the impact we are having?

That is one of the many questions that we are addressing as a new and growing social enterprise. And it’s probably one of the most important questions of all.

Put simply, we need to be clear about the impact we are having to know that we are delivering sustainable social change through football over the long term.

We’re less than a year old, so by necessity, long-term social impact is an aspiration for the future. At the same time, we know that we need to be open about the results we are seeking and how these will be achieved from the outset.

That is why we have put in place the following standards:

1.     Ensuring that we work only with those organisations that share our commitment to accountability and transparency. In this, there is no such thing as being too careful or overly diligent. From the very first moment when we begin exploratory talks with a potential partner, we need to understand that our funds and support are going to be used appropriately and effectively. We always perform a thorough risk assessment before any project or partnership is started.

 2.     Identifying clear and measurable outcomes to show if we are achieving our objectives. From the outset, we agree with our partners which outcomes will define the success of each of our projects. This is a crucial aspect of partnership relationships, ensuring that expectations are clearly understood on all sides. Agreed outcomes need to be measurable, so that we can assess  on an ongoing basis whether projects are delivering value. There is no one size fits all formula – nor should there be when you are working with such a range of large and small organisations, all doing very different work. Working with partners to agree metrics that provide a clear ‘line of sight’ back to our overall mission and vision is very much a guiding principle. Ideally, we don’t only want to measure a set of outcomes, we want to be able to demonstrate that these outcomes have real impact, changing lives and transforming communities on the ground.

3.     Making sure impact is communicated, when the time comes, in a clear and accessible way. In this sense, the style matters as much as the substance. What use is good impact data if its meaning is lost in a jumble of complex tables and dry figures. Far better to bring this to life in an engaging way by presenting the information effectively, accessibly and transparently – whether this is through simple diagrams and pie charts, or more elaborate infographics and short animations. Using simple language rather than management speak is essential.

Questions around how we demonstrate impact also cut across questions of transparency about how we operate. As a global NGO and social enterprise with an ambitious agenda, we need the right professional expertise, a wide network of contacts – not to mention the mundane but critical back-office systems and infrastructure that are vital to the running of any efficient business. We don’t shy away from the fact that this costs money. It is crucial for us and for the wider NGO sector to be able to communicate that the running of any effective organisation requires proper investment and resources.

We haven’t got all the answers yet, of course. We’ve set ourselves a high bar to clear, but our staff, supporters and most importantly, our beneficiaries deserve nothing less.