Proving the value of Social Firms / impact measurement

proving the value.jpgSocial Firms are needed because they:

  • tackle stigma against severely disadvantaged people;
  • create jobs for those that are furthest away from the labour market;
  • offer cost-benefits to society and social added value to investors;
  • merge employment and health improvements for disadvantaged people.

Prove it...

One of the major challenges facing the Social Firm sector today is communicating the social benefits they deliver.  Social Firms create jobs for those that would otherwise struggle to get one.  In doing so they not only help the government in terms of benefits saved, they also provide health benefits to employees which in turn leads to reduced use of health services.   Various small research projects have been carried out using varying methodologies but a definitive social accounting tool to prove social return on investment (SROI) is needed for the whole sector to use.  This is becoming increasingly important, not only to persuade government to support the sector, but also to help Social Firms working with private or public sector organisations or seeking funding, to articulate the non-monetary value they bring.

What’s the value of the Social Firm sector?

Using the studies so far, and estimates published in the Freud Report on savings made when someone on Incapacity Benefits gets a full time job, it is estimated that the Social Firm sector accounts for savings of at least: 

  • £40 million in welfare benefits;
  • £8 million in health care; and
  • £1 million in social services.

We can refine and update our estimates as more Social Firms start to measure their social impact and as the sector grows. In the meantime, it is clear that, as well as making a major impact on individual’s lives, the Social Firm sector is making a significant, and growing, contribution to the social and financial wellbeing of the nation as a whole.

Impact evaluation tools/courses to help you start proving the case: 

  • Distance travelled questionnaire
    This questionnaire was adapted for use by the Social Firm sector by Social Firms UK to help prove the difference being made to people's lives.  It is particularly useful for those providing training or employment/network experience opportunities to disabled people or those with mental health problems.
  • Third Sector Performance Dashboard
    This is a performance management tool created by Social Firms UK.
  • A Guide To Social Return on Investment, by nef.   This new Guide has been developed as a way of standardising practise and methodology for measuring SROI and offers a step by step guide on how to go about measuring social impact.  It can be downloaded at:
  • Courses on social return on investment (SROI) - Social Enterprise London runs occasional courses on 'social impact measurement for local economies.' 
  • Proving & Improving: a quality & impact toolkit for social enterprise
    New Economics Foundation has developed ‘Proving and Improving – a quality and impact toolkit for social enterprise’ within this EQUAL project. The toolkit has five main sections: knowledge, tools, comparing proving and improving approaches, resources and a SROI primer.

  • Social Accounting & Audit Manual
    A new edition of 'Social Accounting & Audit - The Manual' has been produced by the Social Audit Network. Originally published in 2001, the manual has been revised and republished to take into account practical lessons learned from those who used the original version. The manual, which includes a CD, has been especially designed to guide social economy practitioners through the process of setting up social accounting systems and preparing social accounts for external audit. It has been developed from pilot programmes with clusters of social economy organisations based in Liverpool, Scotland, East Midlands and New Zealand.  The Manual is available from Social Audit Network priced £49 (including P&P). Call 0131 558 3040 or email  or visit
  • Co-operatives UK Key Performance Indicators
    Following several years of development and consultation, Co-operatives UK have released guidance on Key Social and Co-operative Performance Indicators. These indicators have been developed as part of the Social Enterprise Partnership (GB) EQUAL project in which Social Firms UK was also a partner, and as some Social Firms are also co-operatives these indicators are also relevant to the Social Firm sector:

Useful projects/articles/reports


proving the value
impact measurement
social return on investment SROI