Reaching consensus on the measurement of social value: challenges not to be overlooked
- 14 April 2020
- Posted by: Helen Nicol
- Category: News
Measuring only the financial value of any initiative risks decision making which jeopardises our social and environmental wellbeing. Given that what gets measured gets done, it is crucial that social value is included in our decision making and evaluation tools, so that we understand the full impact or benefit of proposed initiatives, rather than a take a purely fiscal approach to costs and benefits.
Measuring social value in a standardised and robust way however, presents some significant technical and ethical challenges. Georgina Camp, the CEO and Founder of Huber Social, an organisation with a vision for a global society where wellbeing thrives, here makes the case for there to be a more rigorous approach to measurement of social value as separate from cost benefit or social return on investment.
“In the pursuit to measure social value we must not get carried away and overlook and oversimplify how this is to be achieved. Otherwise we risk establishing a new economy that may create as many issues as it seeks to address.“
She argues that current approaches to measuring social value have some key weaknesses:
- measurement frameworks too often only classify impact instead of standardising the process to measure it.
- causation and attribution are often left to self-assessment by the service provider themselves at the expense of closer adherence to scientific approaches to causation such as control groups or other counterfactual analysis techniques
- measuring outputs and outcomes can be misleading about progress overall. Looking at impacts within complex interdependent systems could lead us to a way of understanding wellbeing as a new ‘systems attractor’
- data is often lacking from the people directly impacted by initiatives. Observing the living standards of another, especially someone in an environment foreign to our own, is ripe for misinterpretation of what matters for them, so we need subjective data to inform our diagnosis and treatment.