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Does your association really make an impact? - results

Last year, we asked if your association really makes an impact, and the results are in! 

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Thank you to all of you who took this time to complete our survey ’Does your association really make an impact?’ 

As part of SFHA’s Innovation and Future Thinking programme, a project on the topic of ‘Tackling Poverty and Demonstrating Impact’ is exploring the use of social and economic impact information by housing associations.

The Poverty and Impact Project team have analysed the survey results and here’s what you told us.

Do housing associations measure social and economic impact?

Of the 41 responses from housing associations, all respondents think it is important to understand social and economic impact.  However, only 36.6% of respondents indicated that their association measures social and economic impact.

Reasons for understanding
Why do respondents feel it is important to understand social and economic impact?

  • To understand and recognise the reach of their impact, what works and what doesn’t, and what makes a difference to communities and the lives of tenants.
  • To assess the allocation of resources to ensure that projects are delivering impact in the shape of positive outcomes.
  • To demonstrate and influence for new or continued funding and investment.
  • To inform and improve future plans and business strategies.

One respondent summed it up by saying “What is the point of investing if you can't see the difference the work makes to communities and the people who live in them?”

Fifteen respondents (36.6%) said their organisation currently measures social and economic impact.  However, there appears to be very little consistency in terms of what is measured, including skills, employment opportunities, wellbeing, sustainability, and the impact of services.

Tools and Approaches
There are also a variety of tools and approaches to measuring impact. One housing association works closely with a community development trust which monitors and reports on the organisation’s impact, while another employs a consultant.  Most appear to use a mixture of surveys, questionnaires, evaluative reports and case studies. Specific tools and measures include

  • social regeneration activity tracker
  • bespoke neighbourhood dashboard
  • STAR
  • HACT Social Value Bank
  • Value Insight
  • Better Futures Framework
  • Logic modelling
  • Social return on investment.

Barriers
What are the barriers to measuring social and economic impact?   
You told us about six main barriers –

  • Uncertainty: respondents were not sure what to measure and/or how to measure it.
  • Difficulty: respondents thought it too difficult to access the necessary data and/or to measure social and economic impact.
  • Resource constraints: respondents identified cost and time constraints in particular.
  • Not a priority: perhaps for the reasons noted immediately above, some boards do not consider this to be a priority.
  • No useable tools: some respondents said there are no useable or reliable tools that can be used at organisation or local level, or across service providers.
  • Information overload: one respondent said they already have enough information.

Clearly, the biggest barrier is uncertainty or lack of knowledge. The following response captures this:

‘Having researched this…we are still unsure where to begin … there appears to be mixed perspective on the value of this data, whether that be owing to its inconsistency in reporting or due to the scepticism around it's true reflection on delivered services.’

What would make it easier for your organisation to measure social and economic impact?

There were four main themes here:

  • A clear definition of social and economic impact and an agreed set of indicators
  • Consistent methods of data collection and analysis. This does not necessarily mean a one-size-fits-all approach (some respondents cautioned against this). A range of easy-to-use, light-touch methods could be used to generate qualitative and/or quantitative data.
  • Easy-to-use and time-efficient: Respondents are clear that whatever the ‘product’ it has to be easy-to-use and must not be too time-consuming.
  • Guidelines and Training: more knowledge and training on “validated tools”; guidance on what is appropriate to use from a key investor and regulator perspective; and training at a high level to understand what can be done with the information obtained;

Next Steps

There is clearly enthusiasm for measuring social and economic impact as respondents feel it is an important part of their work. However, among those who already measure social and economic impact, there appears to be very little consistency in terms of what is measured, how it is measured, and how that information is used. The majority however, do not appear to be measuring their impact at all, despite feeling that it is important to do so, and this is largely because they are not sure where to begin.

The project team, led by Andrew Saunders at Ore Valley Housing Association, is using your feedback to design a programme of work to work with members to develop definitions, guidance, support and earning for housing associations, which will help housing associations to use social and economic impact information. 

If you would like to find out more or get involved please contact lwilson@sfha.co.uk