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Measuring people’s satisfaction with life

One of the eight fundamental principles is measuring the lived experience of people. Image: Priscilla Du-Preez. Unsplash

AUSTRALIA could soon become a world leader in calculating social value with the publication of a new guidefor Standards Australia, the nation’s peak non-government, not-for-profit standards organisation.

Huber Social CEO Georgina Camp, head of the committee writing the new guide, said the other standards that exist at a global level focus on regulating the managing and reporting of social value.

In contrast, this model is about collecting the data that goes into the reporting and management decisions.

“We go to the next level down; you can standardise reporting and managing all you want, but if you haven’t standardised how the information is collected that goes into [the reports], then we are not making comparable decisions,” Ms Camp said.

Standards are documents that set out specifications, procedures and guidelines that aim to ensure products, services, and systems are safe, consistent, and reliable.

The new guide advocates the measurement of social value in its own right rather than converting it to a monetary equivalent

Social value is the calculation of the relative significance people place on the changes they experience in their lives.

It is crucial to consider and measure this social value from the perspective of those affected by an organisation’s decisions.

Ms Camp said Huber Social has been working in this space for a long time.

“We are seeing more people and businesses enter the space with a proliferation of approaches, yet there is a lack of understanding of the importance of having integrity in social impact measurements,” she said.

Together with the fellow committee members SEAF Impact Investing, Trust Waikato (NZ) and Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government, their approach is about developing and maintaining the integrity of social impact measurements.

A scientific methodology in collecting information is the basis of the guide.

This means being transparent in the positive findings and the limitation of those findings.

“Not just reporting on the good,” Ms Camp said.

“The focus of the Standard is that the measurement is fit for purpose.

“The rigour of the measurement is commensurate with the impact of the decision being made.”

The public sector is under pressure to demonstrate the application of resources to achieve social outcomes, addressing social issues and creating social value.

The private sector is under scrutiny on its environmental, social and governance performance and its financial performance.

Nick Pride, Senior Advisor of Ord Minnett’s For-Purpose Team, believes industry standards are well overdue.

“There is an urgent need for robust standards for accurately measuring the Social Impact of activity, so business and NFPs can really show the impact they are having and “walk the walk”, not just talk about it,” Mr Pride said.

Ms Camp said this Standard would be the benchmark used by organisations that commission a report; by the service providers who create the report, and the decision-makers who use it.

The guide takes a principles-based approach but also provides practical guidance on how to apply the principles.

One of its eight fundamental principles is measuring the lived experience of people.

It aims to give more agency to the people impacted if this is practical and ethical to achieve.

Measuring wellbeing is not prescriptive.

“You need to ask people directly to make a self-assessment on their own wellbeing,” Ms Camp said.

“[The committee] want the guide widely reviewed so it will be fit for the end-user, but secondly the benefit of it will become apparent, and people will pick it up and use it.

“Otherwise, we can’t create any change if it just sits on the shelf.”

Standards Australia neither create nor pay for Standards; it merely facilitates the process.

Once the publishing committee approves the guide, it is then made available for public review for a month.

Consideration is given to feedback received before going to peer review and ultimately to publication.

Standards Australia owns the IP and generates revenue by selling copies of the guide to users.

Standards Australia will be collecting community input on The Guide to Measuring Social Value until mid-November.

Ms Camp said the first draft was presented in March and publication is scheduled to take place in early 2022.

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Carol Saffer

Carol Saffer is an award-winning journalist enthusiastic about creating copy that engages audiences. She is curious by nature, possesses a growth mindset and thrives on new and unusual challenges. Carol has experience as a reporter for various regional Victorian newspapers and writing for Business Day in The Age. Her previous career was in the fashion industry, and she holds post-graduate degrees in business and journalism.

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