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.