The SROI analysis is currently a very widely used form of comprehensive impact analysis. In an SROI analysis, an impact model with causal relationships is created for a specific project, programme or organisation. The impacts identified in this way in the individual impact chains are measured and, where possible, monetised. The core approach of the SROI analysis is to compare the impacts of all possible interventions, activities, projects, programmes or organisations, presented as far as possible in monetary units, with the capital invested in them. The result is presented in the form of a highly aggregated indicator, the SROI value. Here, the focus is strongly on the stakeholders who receive a concrete benefit, which in turn triggers impacts.
The SROI analysis - an overview
More specifically, a certain amount of money flows into a particular organization, such as a facility for advising drug addicts. These investments provide services to different stakeholders. The services provided are not ends in themselves, but do have impacts or effects. For example, assisted clients enjoy better health. As a first step of the SROI analyses, the impacts must be identified and then quantified. It is therefore important to identify how many clients actually have better health.
Then, the quantified impacts are expressed in monetary units by using different methodologies. As a matter of principle, when identifying, quantifying and monetarising the impacts, it must always be ensured that in the case of non-existence of the observed intervention, alternative options would not have existed which would have produced the same or similar benefits and impacts. If the drug counseling facility had not existed, would advised persons not have improved health? Presumably some would have been able to take alternative offers. Then, these persons are not attributed to the achievements and impacts. This focuses on (net) impacts as part of the SROI analysis.
At the end of the analysis, when the net impacts of the stakeholders have been collected and monetized, they are summed up and compared with the invested money. This results in the SROI value, which as a key figure represents the social return in the sense of the social return of the invested capital.
The basic steps of an SROI analysis according to the model Then/ Schober/ Rauscher/ Kehl (2017) are the following:
It is therefore a strongly stakeholder-focused approach. Subsequently, based on previous knowledge and existing literature, it is hypothetically considered which positive and negative social impacts could occur among the stakeholders. In qualitative surveys, often carried out by means of guided interviews, it is assessed whether the suspected impacts actually occur and what other impacts may additionally exist. In further steps, the impacts are quantified and monetized. To measure and monetize the impacts, meaningful indicators are assigned to them and are filled with data. In this step, verbally described impacts are "translated" into different indicators. Frequently, so-called "proxy indicators or proxies" are used, which in an approximation try to quantify or monetize the impacts. Proxies are auxiliary structures that do not directly map measurable and/or monetisable quantities as accurately as possible. At the end of the SROI analysis, the monetized impacts are aggregated and compared to the inputs to represent the SROI value. Non-monetized impacts are listed separately.
The NPO Competence Center has had a research focus on conducting SROI analyses for many years. In recent years, numerous SROI analyses have been carried out, many lectures and workshops held, and some publications released on the topic (e.g., SROI manual in German and a new, revised edition in English, see related literature).
Volker Then/ Christian Schober/ Olivia Rauscher/ Konstantin Kehl (Hrsg.): Social Return on Investment Analysis Measuring the Impact of Social Investment (2017)
This book introduces and explains how to conduct a Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis. It discusses the various advantages and disadvantages of different research strategies and designs, and explores the different ways in which SROI analysis results can be used for communication, outreach, and strategic decision-making. It provides insights into how and to what extent SROI analyses can help to meet different expectations, and presents different social impact research designs and methods. It presents an analytical framework for the identification of a proper SROI analysis, and shows readers how to establish an impact model, introducing a stakeholder-based approach.
Volker Then is Founding Director and Executive Director of the Centre for Social Investment at Heidelberg University, Germany.
Christian Schober is Head of the Competence Center for Nonprofit Organizations and Social Entrepreneurship at Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria.
Olivia Rauscher is Head of Social Impact Analysis and Senior Researcher at the Competence Center for Nonprofit Organizations and Social Entrepreneurship at Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria.
Konstantin Kehl is Lecturer at the Institute of Management and Social Policy, ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland.