Measuring social impact is on the board agenda. St Giles Trust realised that traditional financial metrics only gave half their story, and that tradition data on inputs and outputs just didn’t go far enough. They wanted to measure and understand their outcomes and impacts (ever more important to secure public services funding); to explore the difference they made to those receiving their services as well as to wider society; and to measure their true value for money too.
Stuart Jefford: What did you measure?
Rob Owen: The Peer Adviser model is central to all that we do. We fund Peer Advisers (who are ex-offenders themselves) through formal qualifications to give them the skills to help new prison leavers to find housing, access benefits to tide them over, and then look for training and employment. The aim is for both groups to stay away from the very costly criminal justice system and to make a sustained and positive contribution to society. We wanted to measure the impacts associated with reduced re-offending, as well as with ex-offenders gaining access to training, employment and from volunteering.
Stuart Jefford: Why is measuring social impact important to you?
Rob Owen: We believe passionately that the experience our Peer Advisors have makes them better able to support ex-offenders on our programme. But training them requires up-front costs and so doesn’t make it the cheapest option available. Procurement teams want value for money so we wanted to measure the success of our Peer Advisers, the impact of the programme on the people involved, and the wider community too. Our Peer Advisers have a unique ability to put themselves in their client’s shoes that gives them superior credibility - they need it as they’re working with complex individuals who could easily reoffend. We know the outcomes for the programme are much greater than just reoffending rates… there is a ripple effect, but we weren’t able to capture these additional benefits.
Stuart Jefford: Has valuing your social impact helped you to do that?
Rob Owen: Yes. We can now say that, for every £1 we spend, we generate £8.54 of social value – it’s a combination of economic benefits from getting people back into work, human capital gains (skilling up people and the personal empowerment that brings), avoided exchequer costs and improvements in the wellbeing of the individuals involved. It puts us in a good position for discussions with our stakeholders as the added value generated is significant, even within the first year. But we got more than just a number. Using monetary valuation has allowed us to compare our different impacts on a like for like basis, to understand which ones are driving the social value we create.
Stuart Jefford: So did you learn anything new from using monetary valuation to measure your impacts?
Rob Owen: Again, yes. We hadn’t realised just how important the training is. The results show that supporting prison leavers through training and helping them to obtain qualifications that improve their employability, drives the majority of our social impact. The results also showed that the social value associated with our Peer Advisors alone is greater than the financial costs of running the programme. So you could say that our Peer Advisor model ‘pays for itself’: we ‘break even’ (in social value terms) from the impacts associated with our peer advisors alone, even before considering the much larger social value we generate for our clients. It’s clear evidence that if you fund the right activities, you get tangible benefits. We hope it will convince even the most hard-nosed of procurement processes that this approach not only delivers on its promise, but also offers excellent value for money to the state.