Category Archives: Social accounting and audit

Social investment and the eradication of poverty

The Social Metrics Commission recently issued the report on their work to measure poverty in a more meaningful way. They estimate that 14.2 million people in the UK live in poverty, including 4.5 million children. These stats are shocking and underline the vital role of so much of the charity sector and social economy, working in many ways to address the root causes or the effects of poverty.

Big Society Capital (BSC) believe that social investment (i.e. repayable finance used to create impact) can be (a small) part of the solution alongside the social economy sector’s other funding sources. Money provided upfront by social investors is used by social enterprises and charities to finance income-generating models so that they are able to make a greater difference in addressing poverty.

Continue reading Social investment and the eradication of poverty

Advertisements

SAN Presents… understanding poverty

‘Facts alone don’t change how people think… We need to understand how people think about poverty and why… Our society’s shared values can help build support to solve UK poverty’
Joseph Rowntree Foundation[1]

The true purpose of ‘charity’ is to tackle poverty and disadvantage. That’s what charities and other social purpose organisations do – address inequality, help people who are less fortunate, and protect, campaign and lobby on their behalf. Arguably, what is variously referred to as responsible or purposeful business, or even social value, will include actions to tackle poverty.

To truly understand poverty, and the outcomes and impact in terms of how an organisation’s actions are tackling poverty, we need to hear the views of stakeholders who are in poverty… including those in need, but also the people who donate, who invest, who collect intelligence, and who work to tackle poverty in all its forms.

We need to understand the forms of poverty. As the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has described, poverty is not only about not having enough money – it’s about not having enough food, poor housing and heating, poor wellbeing, and a poor environment to live in.

We also need to learn from the intelligence available from research, case studies and reports drawn together to inform our planning, decision-making and investment.

…and we really need to give ‘value’ – meaning and worth – to the work that we are doing to tackle poverty.

The Social Audit Network has 8 Principles[2] for social accounting and audit:

  • Clarify Purpose
  • Define Scope
  • Engage Stakeholders
  • Determine Materiality
  • Make Comparisons (benchmarking)
  • Be Transparent
  • Verify Accounts
  • Embed the process

These principles are all based in creating a logical and consistent approach to collecting and using data as part of an organisation’s arrangements for understanding and reporting on addressing social deprivation and its social impact.

On 17th October, SAN Presents… an exploration of poverty in the eyes of a range of stakeholders, including Big Lottery, Big Society Capital, WOCAN, the 2030 Hub, the Universities of Huddersfield and Salford, Halton CAB and the Bolton Social Business Collective.

And across 3 aspects of poverty – food, social wellbeing and money.

Taking inspiration from the work of the JRF, and also the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we will explore how following the SAN principles and embedding social accounting into your organisation’s work can help your social economy organisation get to grips with robustly reporting on the effort to tackle poverty.

We will also explore an international dimension with the help of WOCAN; Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management, a women-led international membership network of women and men professionals and women’s associations.

The event also coincides with the 26th anniversary of the UN International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Book your place now to join in the debate!

SAN presents… Understanding Poverty

The Social Audit Network’s Annual Gathering

Wednesday 17th October 2018

54 St James Street, Liverpool. L1 0AB

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/san-presents-understanding-poverty-tickets-48057029870

Social Accounting and Audit allows social economy organisations to build on existing monitoring, documentation and reporting systems to develop a process to account fully for social, environmental and economic impacts, report on performance and draw up action plans to improve on that performance. Through this process, an organisation can understand its impact on the surrounding community and build a role as a catalyst for tackling poverty.

Anne Lythgoe
www.socialauditnetwork.org.uk

[1] https://www.jrf.org.uk/blog/talking-about-poverty-uk-what-works

[2] http://www.socialauditnetwork.org.uk/getting-started/what-is-social-accounting-and-audit/

A Problem Shared is a Problem Halved

“There are always two people in every picture, the photographer and the viewer” Ansel Adams.

At Give2Gain, in Stockport, we offer a range of networking meetings and workshops that promote local cross sector relationship building. We are big fans of the stakeholder experience. As we account for the social good we believe we provide, the process is brought alive by the role our stakeholders play in exploring information and testing assumptions. Continue reading A Problem Shared is a Problem Halved

Making social accounting relevant for you….

If nothing else, the Social Value Act has led to an explosion in the number of ‘tools’ to measure social value…

Social Value UK offers 36 online tools and software to help people like you and me use in accounting for and reporting on social value. The Social Value Hub, hosted by Social Enterprise UK, includes a vast range of tools, case studies and advice about measuring social value and the Inspiring Impact programme has many similar resources available. Continue reading Making social accounting relevant for you….

Reflections on Social Enterprise: has it lost its way?

The role of a retired person is no longer to possess one. Simone de Beauvoir

I have been thinking about retiring but with the above quote in mind, I do not want to lose my ‘role’ in society.  I recognise that my role will change and, perhaps because of this, I have been reflecting on the changes that have happened within the social and community enterprise sector – an area I have worked in since 1988.  The essence of this ‘area’ is how organisations can trade in goods and service to maximise social and community benefit.

Mulling over the progress made by the sector in the last 30 years has got me wondering whether or not the world of social enterprise has lost its way.

Since the 1980s when I first started to work with community-owned businesses in Scotland, there have been huge and undoubtedly positive developments.  The idea of enterprises and trading businesses having a central social purpose has become much more acceptable – the proverbial person on the top of the No. 33 bus is now more aware of the term ‘social enterprise’.

Furthermore, governments now see the potential of enterprises delivering a care-bound service and are trying to support them with policies, strategies and the offer of funded contracts.  The prevailing infrastructure (sometimes called ‘eco-system’) within social enterprises is more developed than ever before, and encouragingly, more and more young people want to work within, and startup, companies that create a better and fairer society.

Many of the winds of change in the sector have been positive.  So, why am I left with a nagging negative feeling that the social enterprise ‘movement’, if that is what it is, has lost its way? There are three areas that cause concern.

Firstly, there is no widely agreed definition for a social enterprise.  Instead, there are many slightly different definitions – some are loosely defined and ‘broad church’; while others are very specific.

Without a widely acceptable and recognised definition, it is difficult to say what is a social enterprise and what is not.  This means that some private businesses can self-declare themselves as social enterprises while their trading surplus finds its way eventually into the pockets of its owners.  At the same time, there is a push to encourage organisations that are patently charitable and dependent on volunteer work to make money when there is little or no money to be made.

In my view, this lack of a clear definition has hampered the expansion of the social enterprise sector.

In Scotland, there has been an awareness of this problem and many social enterprises and support organisations have signed up to the Voluntary Code which provides a helpful definition. The Code recognises five basic criteria for social enterprise, and in a short appendix, identifies some less ‘defined’ values/behaviours/influences familiar to the social enterprise movement. Although this has helped, the Code is constantly coming under attack from those that want ‘social enterprise’ to include a wider range of companies – many of which are patently privately owned.

This tug o’ war over definitions is really a political battle – with those on the ‘right’ pushing for privatisation of services, and those on the ‘left’ wanting to retain the benefits from trading entirely for the wider social good.

Secondly, there is an issue about whether or not a social enterprise exists to primarily benefit the individual or the community.

Over the last 40 years or so, there has been a switch in thinking in society in a collective way where there is a concern for the common good, to one where the individual is paramount.  This focus on the individual is so pervasive that it is often considered it to be the norm.  It manifests itself in everything from commercial marketing with a focus on the individual needs of consumers, to psychological profiling of individual persons.

Society is now increasingly more structured these days on the individual and less on the relationships between people.

Mutuality, reciprocal working and looking out for the less fortunate has not disappeared – but it has been given less importance.  We are a society more obsessed with the Self; and less with the Group.

Thirdly, there is a danger that the social enterprise sector is losing its purpose and overall essence.  I think there are three sub-areas of concern here, namely:

  • adoption of neo-liberal economics: Funding is no longer trustingly given to organisations in the third sector.  They have to compete for it causing divisions between similar organisations which due to their often, precarious financial existence should be collaborating and working together for the common good. Added to this is an expectation that growing an organisation is the only way to survive – biggest is best.  This is often not the case as smaller, locally based organisations with strong collective bonds are often more effective as they understand, and work within, the local context.

 

  • overemphasis on management: In the 1980s there was a root and branch re-organisation of the public sector with the introduction of overt marketisation. This encouraged an emphasis on management, reflected in ambitious workers doing MBAs and learning how to manage departments and, indeed, voluntary organisations. The methods of traditional business were swallowed wholesale and not sufficiently adapted to the delivery of social needs. These days it has become entirely acceptable that numbers and finance became the currency of tracking qualitative social change.

 

  • focussing too much on ‘innovative’ technology: This is a tricky one as the technology itself is not a concern – but rather it is how it is applied. Computers have had a huge influence on how we work and how we organise what we do.  There has been, in my view, too much focus on how we deliver what we do and not enough emphasis on why we are doing it.  In effect, there is a danger that the technology dictates the delivery and our sense of caring is subsumed in overly concentrating on method.

I am not sure if I have any answers to any of these concerns about the future direction of social enterprise.

Social and community enterprises can try and keep a grip on what they do by building into their structure time for reflection.  Social Accounting and Audit (SAA) is an integral way of keeping track on what an organisation is doing, how it is doing what it does, who it works with, and most importantly why it is doing what it does.  SAA is not complex.  It is a process which reports on the approach of an organisation, its values and procedures, as well as expecting regular reporting on the positive (and negative) change that happens as a result of the organisation’s actions.

It is about being accountable – not just to a funder or to an owner, but to all the key stakeholders.  It is about helping to hold on to the essence of what they are as a social or community enterprise – and to keep focussed and not drift from their core mission.

Returning to the original quote at the start of this blog.  I think at every age we should build in time for reflection on what has worked and what has not.  The term ‘social enterprise’ is often overused, becoming more diluted and in danger of becoming a meaningless term. The social enterprise ‘movement’, behind the term, is, I think, beginning to lose its way.

But we still have time to address this… well, you do!   I am off to retire.

Alan Kay – Social Audit Network (SAN)
www.socialauditnetwork.org.uk

Social Impact and Inequality

“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our
world, 
none of us can truly rest.” 
Nelson Mandela

Inequality is a difficult topic to understand and tackle but it seems to be increasing in a relative sense and surely has to be addressed by all those working for a fairer society – that includes those pushing for a wider and more effective social economy.

According to the OECD, the average income of the richest 10% of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10% across the OECD, up from seven times 25 years ago. (OECD).

There has always been income inequality but as the world becomes more and more interconnected, the divisions between those that ‘have’ and those that ‘have-not’ is increasingly widening.  And this has a knock-on effect where the disparities in income translate into disparities in wealth – raising the question, who owns our world?

Continue reading Social Impact and Inequality