Evaluation is the most effective way to answer the question, “is my programme really working?” By using various methods to understand and systematically analyse how programmes are designed, implemented and work, evaluations unpack their tangible and intangible effects. This includes how valuable the intervention is and recommendations to improve effectiveness. That’s where SROI in evaluation comes in.
“But how do I know I’m getting value for my investment?” is an often-asked question.
Achieving desired outcomes
Sometimes achieving desired outcomes doesn’t provide sufficient motivation for the continuation of a programme. Corporate social investment, for example, may be expected to provide greater returns than the initial programme investment.
Although evaluation is effective in measuring outcomes, it doesn’t provide an actual monetary value of a programme. If that’s what you’re looking for then an evaluation approach such as the Social Return on Investment (SROI) method could be most effective in illustrating value.
SROI in evaluation
SROI is an approach used to measure social impact by providing a value for the economic, environmental and social effects of a programme. An SROI ratio gives an approximate measurement, in Rand value, of the social value created for every R1 invested.
Despite evaluation and SROI being distinct ways to understand and measure social impact, both are evidence-based approaches founded on the principles of transparency, participation, and verification.
And although the information produced by each approach is different, when combined, this information may be more useful and compelling for decision-makers. In this sense, SROI can be viewed as an additional step in evaluation.
People matter, but social development money matters too. And especially in more prudent times, there is perhaps no stronger way to make a business case. Evaluators, as jacks-of-all-trades and should not shy away from equipping decision-makers with as much information as possible to improve interventions. For some evaluations, SROI might be exactly what you need.
Finally, it’s the job of the evaluator to support decision-making in a way that optimises and maximises value. In this way, highlighting that value with every method you can.