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Measuring Social Value

Measuring Social Value

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unders, nonproFit executives, and policy- makers are very enthusiastic about measuring social value. alas, they can- not agree on what it
is, let alone how to assess it. their main obstacle is assuming that social value is objective, Fixed, and stable. when people approach social value
as subjective, mallea- ble, and variable, they create better metrics to capture it.
unders, nonproFit executives, and policy- makers are very enthusiastic about measuring social value. alas, they can- not agree on what it
is, let alone how to assess it. their main obstacle is assuming that social value is objective, Fixed, and stable. when people approach social value
as subjective, mallea- ble, and variable, they create better metrics to capture it.

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Published by: Social innovation in Western Australia on May 06, 2011
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Stanford Social Innovation Review 
Email: info@ssireview.org,
www.ssireview.org
 
Measuring Social Value
By Geoff Mulgan
Stanford Social Innovation ReviewSummer 2010
 
Copyright 
©
2010 by Leland Stanford Jr. UniversityAll Rights Reserved
 
38
 
Stanford Social innovation review
• Summer 2010
Over the last few decades,many people have attemptedto measure what is sometimescalled social, public, or civic value—that is, the value thatnongovernmental organiza-tions (NGOs), social enter-prises, social ventures, andsocial programs create.
1
Thedemand for these metrics hascome from all sectors: Foun-dations want to direct theirgrants to the most eectiveprograms; public ocials, poli-cymakers, and government budget oces have to accountfor their spending decisions;investors want hard data anal-ogous to measures of prot;and nonprots need to demon-strate their impact to funders,partners, and beneciaries.Metrics to meet these needshave proliferated over the last40 years, resulting in hundredsof competing methods for cal-culating social value.
2
Despite the enthusiasm formetrics, few people actually use them to guide decisions.In the nonprot sector, goodmanagers are very rigorousabout tracking costs and in-come. But few use sophisti-cated metrics to help allocateresources. Meanwhile, in thepublic sector, political judg-ment counts more than cost- benet assessments. In therare cases when decision mak-ers do use metrics of social value, it’s far from clear thatthey should.I’ve dealt with social valuemetrics in a variety of roles:as director of policy andstrategy under United King-dom Prime Minister Tony Blair; as director of the YoungFoundation, an NGO thathas created dozens of ven-tures, some for-prot, somesocial enterprises, and somepublic; and as an advisor tomany other governments. Inthese positions, I’ve seen notonly why social value metricsare ignored, but also how tomake them more useful.One recent project thatproved particularly informa-tive was a collaboration be-tween the United Kingdom’sNational Health Service(NHS) and the Young Foun-dation. The NHS commis-sioned the Young Foundationto develop a practical toolfor assessing service innova-tions and guiding investmentdecisions. The NHS is a vastorganization with a budget of around $150 billion, a work-force of some 1.2 million em-ployees, and contracts withmore than 30,000 social en-terprises. It needed a set of tools that would be both
Funders, nonproFitexecutives, and policy-makers are veryenthusiastic aboutmeasuring socialvalue. alas, they can-not agree on what itis, let alone how toassess it. their mainobstacle is assumingthat social value isobjective, Fixed, andstable. when peopleapproach social valueas subjective, mallea-ble, and variable, theycreate better metricsto capture it.
By Geoff Mulgan | 
Illustration by Luke Best
 
Measuring
 
Social Value
 
Summer 2010
 
Stanford Social innovation review
 
39

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