Social Value: Our Journey from Theory to Practice
“Social value is the worth of an organisation's intervention in society”, but how do you measure this value? Let’s go back to the beginning of our journey…
When Connectforce began in 2020, our mission was simple: support those living and working in the care sector who were affected by Covid-induced lockdowns. As the pandemic progressed, we recognised that our role in tackling the growing disconnect within our society would continue to be necessary even after restrictions were lifted. We resolved to develop our programmes and expand our reach.
Today, our work supports elderly people in care home settings, as well as younger people who are experiencing barriers to further education or employment. Our programmes seek to improve confidence, communication and self-expression, using creativity as a driver. Central to working in the not-for-profit sector is being purpose driven and impactful - accounting for social value is intrinsic to this.
Simply put, measuring social value allows you to prove in tangible terms the difference that a company's work actually makes. One might think what they do is great, but without proof, this means little.
To be frank, when Connectforce began, we were a group of not-for-profit newbies who had (and still have!) a lot to learn in regards to measuring our social value.
After a couple of years of hard graft, we are now in a position to lift the lid on some of the work we’ve been doing behind the scenes to produce our, our Theory of Change and finally our first Social Value Report.
In 2020, we established our guiding principles:
1. to be people-led, 2. to commit to a culture of openness, compassion and humanity, 3. to champion diversity, inclusivity and representation, 4. to be brave and unconventional in our problem-solving, 5. to approach decision-making with efficiency and agility, 6. to nurture and grow the Connectforce Community/To maintain an inclusive and interactive, Connectforce Community - (creating an inclusive and interactive experience) for our beneficiaries which goes beyond the volunteering opportunities themselves, and finally, 7. to create accessible volunteering opportunities for artists and promoting active citizenship within the industry
Theory of Change
Wanting to develop our model, we took part in a workshop with Impact and Engagement Specialist Jack Palmer in May 2022 to tackle this somewhat confusing but crucial piece of work!
What is the Theory of Change?
Theory of Change is methodology for planning how and why desired change is expected to happen. It is used by companies, philanthropy, not-for-profit, international development, research, and government sectors to promote social change.
Here we reflected on our areas of focus, taking time to differentiate between outcomes (what we want to achieve) and outputs (what it will take), as well as long and short-term goals.
We identified the following key themes when looking at our priorities:
Reducing social isolation
Improved retention of jobs
To contribute to a more progressive and compassionate society
Creative arts seen as a key driver for social change
The skills of creatives are valued as a vital tool to a well rounded society
Provide opportunities for creatives to give back to society
Drive the change for creativity to be viewed as a key to creating a happy, healthy society
We walked away from our session with Jack with a lot to think about!
We believe in the role of creativity and the arts in creating a kinder and more progressive society.
How will we do this?
Through facilitating programmes that are designed to channel artists’ skills to support those in the wider community.
What will we do?
We run befriending programmes and communication workshops that ultimately link creatives to those who would benefit from interaction and engagement with the arts sector.
Social Value Report
Then came our most recent piece of work, our first Social Value Report. When working with Nicola Dickens from Profit4Purpose, an accredited social value practitioner, we began by collecting mountains of data and anecdotal feedback from our programmes over the past two years. We reviewed them, keeping our key areas of interest in mind, and thematically organised them to represent an indicator of a particular outcome.
The resulting were five key areas where we could make the most impact in the communities we work with:
Growth in Confidence
Connection & Loneliness
The workshop on social value accounting was really interesting and informative. In particular, the insight into how corporations convert social value into monetary value and the frameworks put into place by the government. This has been done to support social change by supporting businesses that help tackle existing social and economic challenges exacerbated by the pandemic.
Our Social Value Report will be influential in our development going forward and nicely ties up our journey, progress, improvements and flaws so we can continuously monitor our growth.
Sustainable Development Goals
One of the main ways corporations can measure their social impact is by following the UN Sustainable Development Goal framework. The SDG goals is the global framework, agreed upon by the United Nations, to which countries, governments, NGOs, businesses (not- and for-profit) and charities can align their outcomes. To ensure that we meet these goals we matched our key values to outcomes, the activities to get there and the impact to ensure we are actively taking steps towards producing tangible value in the wider community.
So let's break that down:
What are Sustainable Development Goals?
SDG’s, also known as Global Goals, were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.” SDGs are also drivers for social value amongst corporate settings.
Our Social Value Pledges
We work towards these larger goals by aligning our work with these social value pledges to work towards/committing to micro-SDG goals (smaller, more tangible goals.). A few examples of how we’re doing this include:
aligning our frameworks with SDG, specifically goals 3 (Good health and wellbeing) 8 (Decent work and economic growth) and 10 (reduced inequalities)
pledging our commitment to offer a range of programmes to help marginalised communities of different ages build confidence and a sense of community through creative networks
continuing to educate our community
last but not least, a commitment to our new social pledges! These reflect the five key areas identified from our work with Nicola where we believe we can truly make a difference.
We’re passionate about the work we’re doing, so expect to see this work reflected across in our online presence! This includes a series of educational videos we have produced to further inform our community that you can look forward to in the coming weeks. Follow our Instagram for updates!