social impact project

The Question of Value for Money: Using SROI in Evaluation

By Evaluation2,311 Comments

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.


balancing scale


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.

SROI in evaluation graphicDespite 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.

Social development

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.

theory of change demonstration

Understanding the Theory of Change (ToC) and Theory of Action (ToA)

By Evaluation2,725 Comments

In its intricacies, a key to program evaluation is the application of a logic model that must be thoroughly applied to assess degrees of social impact and/or change. The idea is to apply theory to actualize and implement real change at the ground level. The program theory, responsible for trying to map out what any given program does at current, contains two parts. These parts are the theory of change (ToC) and the theory of action (ToA).

Theory of Change vs. Theory of Action

The ToC focuses on the dynamics of change and the drivers through which change comes about, irrespective of any planned intervention. Simply put, ToC answers why you expect change to happen and, through a series of ‘If, then’ statements, how and why change occurs.

The ToA displays how interventions are constructed to activate the ToC. This operationalization of the ToC illustrates what the program does, how this triggers the change process and identifies critical assumptions.

The final analysis of the ToA will either show support for the current program functionality or identify key gaps that are of a hindrance to the program functionality. This specific action plan mobilizes the ‘If, then’ statements.

The Logic Model

This two-fold program theory is then applied to the standard framework. The logic model is made up of five parts.

1. Inputs

The logic model first begins with the identification of inputs—resources that must be compiled to execute the activities that are to follow, in an ultimate effort to get the program kick-started. Some examples of inputs might be partnerships or funding that will be used for stipends.

2. Activities

Secondly, activities are actions that lead to the desired change, specifically the process that a beneficiary goes through. This might look like workshops, training, and/or services.

3. Outputs

Outputs are immediate, tangible products of the activities. They are usually listed as a series of ideal products that are a reflection of how the program gets rolled out. An example could be the number of learners enrolled in an after-school program.

4. Outcomes

Outcomes, which are easily confused with outputs, are desired, intangible results or rather, what you want your beneficiaries to go out into the world and actualize—improvement in behaviours or beliefs, for example. These outcomes are usually presented as a triumvirate—short term, medium term, and long term.

Unintended outcomes are also important to identify at this stage, as they are often a reflection of blind spots that weren’t accounted for in the key stages of creating the program’s blueprint.

5. Impact

Lastly, the impact is a macro level reflection of an ultimate goal that the program seeks to achieve at the ground level. Such impacts are an attempt to affect systemic change like alleviating poverty or reducing unemployment.

Where possible, Development Works Changemakers will produce a ToC and ToA as part of the evaluation process, when undertaking a program evaluation. This process usually involves a series of interactive workshops with key programme stakeholders at the onset of an evaluation.

By Malanna Wheat