the GiGLer

The newsletter of Greenspace Information of Greater London CIC

GiGL and Social Impact

Mandy Rudd, GiGL CEO

Community interest companies (CICs) are required to report to Companies House on business activities for the previous financial year, focusing specifically on ‘activities and impact’ and ‘consultation with stakeholders’. The purpose of the report and accompanying accounts is to demonstrate that we are using our profits and assets for public good. The information we submit serves a purpose, but as our business develops and our understanding of what makes a good social enterprise improves, we have been looking to report to our stakeholders and the general public in a more accessible way.

Anyone familiar with our strategic plan knows that our vision is that ‘London’s natural environment is appreciated, understood, considered and improved’, but how do we monitor and evaluate our services and identify the outcomes and impact of our work? Can we demonstrate that London’s human inhabitants are benefiting from our work too?

To find out, I recently attended a two day course on ‘Measuring Social Impact’, run by NEF Consulting and hosted by the School of Social Entrepreneurs. Social impact is described by Good Finance, another organisation we have worked with on our journey understanding our role as a social enterprise, as

…the effect on people and communities that happens as a result of an action or inaction, an activity, project, programme or policy’.

I was one of eight course attendees, all of us representing non-profits of various sizes, all women, and three of us were founder CEOs.

The work that we do on behalf of our stakeholders is incredibly broad, and after two days of learning I concluded with the course tutor’s advice that measuring GiGL’s social impact was going to be very difficult. Sometimes we deal with individuals and our work results in a direct impact. For example where Londoners use our Discover London map to find new places to visit, we could claim outcomes that include improved access to nature and the related health benefits. A measure, although in reality almost impossible to pin down, would be the number of new greenspaces visited within a certain timeframe.

The majority of our work is for partner organisations that produce or need access to data about London’s natural environment. Our work informs their activities, and it’s their activities that result in social impact. An example outcome is that our services influence regional and local policy, and in turn the policy-related activities protect or enhance the natural environment. Local communities are one of the benefactors of a healthy local natural environment but the social impact in this example would be measured by our partner rather than GiGL. Whilst our work doesn’t directly benefit the community in this case, we can legitimately claim a small role in the outcomes and impacts as they have been informed by our work.

We will continue our learning through our membership of Social Enterprise UK, and further training from the many experts in the social enterprise sector, and it is likely that our social impact reporting will form part of our new annual report, coming later this year.

6 Comments

  1. Simon Saville on April 2020 at 9:42 am

    Thanks for a thoughtful post, Mandy.

    Measuring social impact is always going to be difficult, but I think it’s possible to make a start. The first step might be to try to list the various ways that GiGL’s activities could have an impact. This would include direct and indirect impacts, as you indicate.

    I see this as being analogous to assessing the ecosystem services delivered e.g. by street trees. It’s relatively easy to acknowledge benefits in terms of air quality, CO2 absorption, shade/cooling, biodiversity, visual amenity … and so on. It’s much harder to quantify these benefits.

    I’d argue that the quantification is less important than identifying the sources of value. Quantification will always be contentious, but most people will agree on the sources themselves.

    And so with GiGL and your social impact. Can you start by identifying a long list of potential beneficial impacts? Then try to estimate whether these are large, medium or small?



  2. Andrew Gill on April 2020 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks for an interesting and thought provoking article. When your organisation effectively provides services for other organisations and groups it can be difficult to demonstrate direct impact. I agree with the comment above that you could list the various ways that GIGL’s activities could have an impact and perhaps go a stage further by listing some of the organisations and groups you support . Perhaps ask their CEOs to give you a quotation to include in your report on how GIGL’s services have helped them achieve their objectives?



  3. David Clark on April 2020 at 3:45 pm

    As a recorder for GIGL it has a direct impact on my wellbeing. Recording is a vital part of conservation thus in a small way by having my records on a database somewhere makes me feel as though I have contributed to nature and conservation something that a little black book tucked away in a desk would never do.



  4. David Clark on April 2020 at 3:49 pm

    …….i meant to add ………following on from Simon`s comment maybe a bit of qualitative research would be useful in disseminating the various threads that your GIGL`s stakeholders find valuable.



  5. Roger Manser on April 2020 at 11:06 am

    Have you done any analysis of the number/location of the people who look at Discover London map? It might give you some numbers. Search on Google – putting in Discover London map parks – brings up your map – in images – as the 2nd (after NPC) again there might be some numbers…



  6. Mandy Rudd on April 2020 at 12:59 pm

    Thank-you Simon, Andrew, David and Roger for taking the time to share your ideas with us, they’re really helpful and will definitely inform how we take this project forward. More on this later this year!



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