London on 1 December saw the long-awaited launch of SIAA, the Social Impact Analysis Association. Two and a half years ago, in May 2009, the idea of an association of non-profit analysts was first mooted at a conference on ‘Valuing impact’. ‘My name is Martin Brookes and I’m a non-profit analyst,’ said Martin Brookes, then CEO of New Philanthropy Capital (NPC). ‘Not many people can say that and not many would understand it.’
The idea of SIAA came partly through reflection on the differences between the for-profit and non-profit spheres. Economists, risk experts and analysts in the for-profit world have qualifications and a right to speak about their subjects and be listened to. But there is no similar professional standard for analysis in the non-profit sphere. In December 2011, Andreas Rickert of Phineo, the German equivalent of NPC, was able to say, ‘I don’t feel alone any more.’ And there is no need for him to: SIAA now has around 110 members.
Finding out what the members want and setting the agenda for the newly formed association was what the SIAA launch conference was all about. So what is next for SIAA? An afternoon of brainstorming in small groups provided a rich menu of tasks for the organization. Some were clearly for the long term – for example, creating a web forum for sharing approaches, evaluation designs and even evaluations across different countries. Others seemed more readily attainable. Tris Lumley of NPC was confident that principles/guidelines to cover measuring, analysis, reporting and using analysis could be drafted within a year.
Some issues for SIAA: who will pay for all this analysis? Will funders see it as their responsibility to ensure non-profits have the funds they need to do it? How can the views of beneficiaries be taken into account when assessing social impact? Will SIAA be an organization for sharing tools and good practices or will social impact analysis eventually become a formal profession with formal qualifications?