Impact conferences are thick on the ground at the moment, a testimony to how topical an issue social impact has become for the voluntary sector. SOCAP11 in San Francisco prominently included discussions on social impact and social impact investing; the publishers of UK voluntary sector magazine Third Sector ran a 300-person conference on the issue earlier in the month in London, supported by New Philanthropy Capital; and the European Venture Philanthropy Association’s upcoming conference in Turin includes a number of sessions on social impact.
With all of these events taking place, the Social Impact Analysts Association (SIAA)’s upcoming launch in December might seem a bit excessive. However, SIAA’s launch is being designed a bit differently.
SIAA is a new professional association focused explicitly on supporting and connecting social impact analysts worldwide. By this we mean those who assess, measure and analyse the social impact generated by the activities of the non-profit sector – be it an individual charity, a funding body or a consortium of different organizations working jointly towards the same goals. In keeping with our international ambitions, we are starting up with seed funding from the Adessium Foundation in the Netherlands, the Bertelsmann Foundation in Germany, New Philanthropy Capital in the UK, and the German branch of PricewaterhouseCoopers.
SIAA’s launch is being developed as an ‘unconference’ – that is, a series of workshops in which attendees define and agree some of the most pressing problems we face in practising social impact analysis; identify ways that SIAA and others can help address these issues, for instance through working groups, bespoke research or partnership working between existing initiatives; and finally commit to working towards these solutions together.
We are doing this for two reasons. First, we’d like to create a setting in which participants can genuinely interact with others and learn something new. For all the networking at the buffet tables and the many panel discussions at your average conference, the reality is that plenary sessions aren’t particularly conducive to engaging with the content or promoting in-depth conversations between participants, particularly if English isn’t their first language. The sound is tinny, you’re sitting too far back to see the Powerpoint, and you get passed over for questions.
Second, we want those who attend to genuinely help shape the day’s agenda. This is because our members are SIAA – we may convene the launch, but the social impact analysts, evaluators, funders, philanthropy advisers and academics who attend the event are the real brains behind the association. They are the ones with the experience and expertise to define what good practice of social impact analysis looks like, internationally and across different sectors.
In short, SIAA’s launch is an opportunity for our members and those interested in social impact analysis to shape SIAA’s work based on what is important to them. It’s also a chance for SIAA to sit at the table with our stakeholders and – fittingly enough for an organization focused on social impact – to both listen to what they say and put their needs at the heart of the services we offer.
The SIAA launch will take place on Thursday 1 December in central London. Full details of the event can be found here: http://siaassociation.org/events/annual-conference-2011/.
Updates and info available via hashtag #SIAAlaunch
Claire Coulier is leading on the development of SIIA.