SIMPLE

Primary purpose
Summary
Potential benefits
Who can use the tool?
What resources are needed?
Development, ownership and support
Third sector examples
Further sources of information
Footnotes

Primary purpose


The Social IMPact measurement for Local Economies (SIMPLE )1 approach to social impact assessment is a framework (rather than a tool) developed by Social Enterprise London (SEL) in conjunction with University of Brighton. It combines internal strategic review with outcomes based assessment to help managers of socially motivated businesses to visualise where and how they make positive contributions to society. Following a two-day training, users will be equipped to select appropriate measures with which to collect quantifiable data and have received guidance on how to use that data to put their efforts into the broader context. By using a framework such as SIMPLE it is possible to identify what evidence of change needs to be collected in order to illustrate the social benefits the work of the organisation creates.

Summary


Rather than a tool, SIMPLE is a framework representing a five-stage approach that an organisation can undertake to identify, measure and communicate its impact.

The five stages through which training participants are guided are as follows:

  1. SCOPE IT – Undertake a strategic review to assess the various factors driving their organisation’s social element. The user is prompted to take into account the organisation’s mission and objectives, stakeholder priorities, the external environment, internal drivers and the activities undertaken.
  2. MAP IT – Having identified which activities relate most closely to their intended impacts, organisations map out the relationships between their everyday work and the short-, medium- and long-terms effects of carrying that out.
  3. TRACK IT – Assigning key impact indicators to outcomes allows organisations to generate ongoing, quantitative data to represent their impacts.
  4. TELL IT – Once impact data is collected this is put into context by identifying the most appropriate types of comparison with which to highlight social impacts and make them readily understood by a variety of audiences.
  5. EMBED IT – Only by ensuring this procedure is followed rigorously and data collected on a regular basis will social impact assessment prove to be a worthwhile exercise. Hard wiring the framework at all levels of an organisation is an essential part of the process and allows for constant review and improvement.

Potential benefits

  • It brings a strategic perspective to analysis in that it can be used to improve the performance of social enterprises and other third sector organisations.
  • It is sufficiently comprehensive and adaptable to meet the needs and circumstances of a wide range of social enterprises and third sector organisations.
  • It is practical in its application but based on a theoretical perspective.
  • It is a dynamic approach that embeds impact measurement and reporting into an organisation’s processes and systems.
  • It is holistic in that it can be used across an organisation and at different levels.

Potential limitations

  • It is not an off-the-shelf method and it requires the organisation to understand some basic terms and concepts in order to be able to implement.
  • It does not have an auditing function, external accreditation or brand mark.
  • It can be relatively time-intensive, especially in setting it up because of the time taken for the organisation to undergo the training and embed processes to help measure and record impact. However, once the process is up and running and the indicators are being collected the level of time required is expected to decrease.

Who can use SIMPLE?


SIMPLE has wide applicability to organisations in the third sector, of any size, in all stages of development.

What resources are needed?

Leadership

Implementing the framework requires a lead person to have undergone the two-day training programme. Ideally this person should have easy access to management information.

Proficiencies or skills

An understanding of strategic planning or business planning is useful, although the elements of the process can be learned while using the tool during the training.

Staff time

In addition to the two days’ staff time necessary for training, implementing the various stages (in particular the data collection) will require time and resources depending on the number of stakeholders involved and the size and reach of the organisation’s activities.

Courses, support, and information

In order to implement the approach, users will need to take part in a two-day, in-house or onsite training programme delivered by SEL.

Development, ownership and support

SIMPLE is owned and supported by Social Enterprise London. It was originally developed as a three-day training programme accredited at Level 5 by the Institute of Leadership & Management as a Vocationally Related Qualification (VRQ). Henceforth, training will entail a two-day programme either in- house or at the organisation, but without formal VRQ accreditation.

Third sector examples

  • Milton Keynes Theatre and Gallery Company
  • Skillsgateway CIC (a construction training centre in Chatham)

Further sources of information


For more information on the SIMPLE approach to social impact assessment please contact SEL on 020 7022 1920 www.sel.org.uk

Footnotes


The SIMPLE programme was co-financed by the South East England Development Agency and the European Social Fund.

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