Photo from the project "Pare, escute, olhe", ADC Moura

Social impact evaluation is becoming of paramount importance for NFP’s and social entrepreneurs’ organisations at a rapid pace and on a large scale throughout the social economy sector. This is due to extraordinary improvements in social impact evaluation methods, instruments and efficiency and to profound changes in the social organisations' management methods and at the same time following increasing competition for scarce resources.

Given this trend, that has been evolving for a few years and that seems to be here to stay, several challenges have arisen for both organisations and social impact evaluators and become a problem that Stone Soup Consulting is attempting to solve:
 


1.  The increasingly high standard of the evaluations demanded by peers and funders introduces a competition factor amongst organisations and social impact projects never seen before. More and more funding programs demand credible social impact evaluation results to support their investment decisions. This means that even if a social impact evaluation is not mandatory for selection purposes, what happens is that those organisations that are able to demonstrate, credibly, outcomes and impacts have an enormous competitive advantage;

2. The difficulty for small organisations and projects of doing evaluation alone, be it for lack of in-house skills or lack of expendable time but also because they cannot afford an external evaluation at a fair price;

3. The temptation of social impact evaluators to lower prices, either to conquer a larger market or by taking their legitimate and mandatory role in promoting social impact too far by reducing the cost of their knowledge and time to unsustainable levels. Consequently they generate a negative impact through social dumping amongst our profession.
 


Stone Soup Consulting's collaborative model

Conscious of this trend and applying its values as a social enterprise, Stone Soup Consulting is fostering a holistic and socially responsible approach to this problem through a specific low cost collaborative partnership model which joins:
 


A) Professional, external evaluators who work as mentors through the whole process
 


B) Beneficiary organisations and teams with minimal evaluation skills and time to help in the evaluation process and collectively provide intelligence for the theory of change and also carry out data collection;
 


C) Masters’ students interested in focusing their thesis on these organisations’ impact evaluations; students whose mission is to lead the evaluation project, analyse the data and draft the final report for their thesis.
 


The first project covered by Stone Soup Consulting’s solution for social impact evaluation is “Pare, escute, olhe” (Stop, listen, look) from ADC Moura, a reputed non NFP in Portugal. The project's mission is an innovative approach to reducing exclusion amongst Romani people. In this case, Stone Soup Consulting and social impact consultant and mentor, Tito Damião, made a call to several universities to find a matching student. Professor Nuno Jorge, coordinator of the social economy master’s programme of a regional university, the Instituto Politécnico de Santarém (IPS) found us that match. Marta Miguinhas is the IPS’s master’s student who will be the author of the evaluation.

One long-term impact we also want to achieve with this solution is that social impact evaluation projects and academic research be more connected to further knowledge in all social fields and sub-fields(namely, social: economy, entrepreneurship, innovation and evaluation). This is a collective learning process that has not been fostered enough or at least not nearly enough to achieve the necessary critical mass to influence the practice, quality, ethics and sustainability of social impact evaluation as a social, entrepreneurial endeavour itself.

By Tito Damiâo, consultant at Stone Soup Consulting.