As we all know, Spain is in the midst of some pretty tough times. Looking at employment issues alone, in January 2013 the European Commission recorded unemployment at 26.6%, with youth unemployment at 55.5%.
With these facts firmly in mind I attended a social impact analysis workshop in Madrid on 7 March. With over 90 participants from a range of social-purpose organisations and foundations I was intrigued to discover more about how the attendees see social impact analysis in the context of austerity.
In the morning several speakers presented case studies of how social impact analysis has been used in Spain. A particular highlight was Francesc Ventura from La Caixia Foundation, outlining an impressive socio-economic analysis done in 2011 around their Integration into Work programme. The programme focuses on getting those who find getting a job hardest into work. Their target groups include disabled people, young people with problems entering the job market, the long-term unemployed, over-45s, former prisoners, and women in situations of domestic abuse. The analysis looked at social explanations for job retention including relationships and motivation, rather than just focusing on individuals’ ability to find a job. He outlined how they were able to use this expanded set of causal factors to analyse how effectively they were achieving their goals. The results were used to improve efficiency through the implementation of a more holistic approach for these individuals.
There seemed to be an atmosphere of enthusiasm and commitment to moving the social impact agenda forward. D Ingio Saenz De Mira from Fundación Botin encouraged attendees to initiate their own social impact journey, by starting to measure the outcomes of their work and not just the outputs or means by which they reach those outcomes. He was keen to consider the role of social impact analysis in understanding why certain activities have the positive impact they do on people’s lives, such as the impact of museums or art centres.
International speakers Tris Lumley (SIAA trustee and head of development at New Philanthropy Capital UK) and Lisa Hehenberger (research director at European Venture Philanthopy Association) were keen for the group to focus on the purpose of measuring impact. In their view, the primary purpose of organisations engaging in impact measurement is for them to use the results and process of analysis to better understand their impact, and to improve practice. This focus on purpose was something that resonated throughout the event along with an emphasis that there is no one gold method or tool for measuring impact. Speakers pushed the point that any misunderstanding or complexity around approaches to measuring impact is not a reason for organisations to avoid trying. Martha Rey, director of Fundación Hazloposible, explained that all organisations have to start somewhere, and that research has shown organisations are often attracted to simple approaches that can be used by investors and investees alike – such as theory of change or the logical framework.
Having worked at SIAA for a number of months I have been encouraged by the growing interest in social impact analysis in countries beyond the perceived mainstream in this sector. Each country and region has its own challenges, but dialogue between countries is essential for best practice for frontline practitioners to occur. The workshop in Spain inspired me to support this continuing dialogue and to look at the development of social impact analysis as an essential part of tackling pressing social problems such as high unemployment.
The underlying message of the event was that change doesn’t happen overnight, but that the social impact mountain will be climbed ‘slowly but surely’ (in the words of an attendee) and the change we want to see in more effective philanthropy and investment will come.
Thanks to the Spanish Association of Foundations, Stone Soup Consulting, Philanthropic Intelligence and the Social Impact Analysts Association (SIAA), who collaborated to organise the event with support from the Botin Foundation and the Bertlesmann Foundation.
Ruth Whateley is manager of the Social Impact Analysts Association (SIAA)