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Change Begins with Each of Us

Get to know the Social Value Member Networks!

The Social Value Joint Member Network is extensive. When starting our summer internship at Social Value Canada we (Arnaud & Cara) had very little idea about the other members in the network, but we were curious to get to know more. Through connecting with Social Value International we gained a better idea of how the network functions and what collaboration looks like between the networks.

We had a strong feeling that there is room to grow in terms of communication and collaboration between individual Joint Member Networks. We would love to see more dialogue and idea exchanges between networks and decided to start this project.

Researching for this article helped us learn a lot about and from other networks. We had the chance to interview five international networks and learned about their respective political environments and national perceptions with regards to social value and impact. We also learned about the variety of impressive projects that Social Value networks are undertaking. Overall, we see a huge opportunity to learn from one another and hope that this article might be the starting point for that!

First up: SIMNA – The Social Value Australia Network

SIMNA was founded in 2012, following a 3-year “Investing in Impact Partnership” between Social Ventures Australia, the Centre for Social Impact and the PwC Foundation. We had the chance to speak with Simon Faivel, Director, Consulting at Social Ventures Australia, and Founding Chair of SIMNA, who has been involved in SIMNA since its inception.

How is the social value movement received in Australia?  

SIMNA has been around for a decade and had its genesis in the nonprofit sectors and SPOs but there was always a close link to business, including with infrastructure, resources, and mining businesses. The social value profile is being elevated through large businesses that are realizing the importance of social value and are releasing impact and social value statements, consider for example big companies like Lendlease and BHP Billiton.

In addition, Simon mentioned the importance of the newly formed Labor government in Australia which provides a greater shift of focus toward society and people. Simon thinks a greater understanding and acceptance of the centrality and importance of social value accounting that informs our decision making is coming soon.

People approach SIMNA with a mindset of: ‘This matters. I want to be a part of it.’ when they sign up for membership or an affiliated course. Demand for training has been consistent and SIMNA provides lots of different activities for its members through its volunteers in the Organising Committees around the country.

In terms of projects, Simon told us about the SIMNA awards, which are the most significant event for the network. The SIMNA awards take place every year and celebrate pioneering organizations and initiatives seeking to achieve positive outcomes and impact for communities and environment. Take a closer look at the 2021 SIMNA award results here.

When we asked Simon about the recent release of Principle 8 he said it is great that the principle is formalized but “it has always been about what you actually do with the research and data you’ve gathered rather than just accounting and reporting”. It is a necessary codification of something that has been central in how SIMNA operates.

New Zealand: Social Value Aotearoa

The New Zealand Social Value Network “Social Value Aotearoa” was launched in June 2015. We had the chance to speak with Sneha Lakhotia, who has been associated with the network for six years. Throughout our conversation we were impressed by how much the Māori, the  Indigenous population, was involved in SVA’s work and how they actively engage with them – this is definitely something we can learn from here in Canada. The word Aotearoa itself is the Māori word for “the long white cloud”. Indigenous values are embedded in SVA because the organization has been built on the principles of the Māori – the opening words during SVA’s launch were “Whanaungatanga”, meaning connectivity and engagement, which is key to engaging with people, communities, organizations, and knowledge.

We asked Sneha how the social value movement is being received in New Zealand and she told us that the movement is gaining momentum. As such, social value is embedded in the general actions and in the country’s culture. The people are conscious of environmentalism, strive for inclusion, and it is an ethically oriented country.

SVA counts around 100 members, who are a mix of individuals and organizations from a wide variety of sectors. Sneha told us that awareness is growing, and it is an iterative movement. The SVA vision is to connect different individuals, social enterprises and organizations together, acting as a “networking organization” and platform to share best practices.

Sneha stressed how the philosophy of the Māori population is very family- and people-centric, which blends very well with SV principles and values. Recently, there was also a very insightful SROI analysis led by Sneha to understand the impact of a numeracy and literacy program delivered by a group of Indigenous organizations for Indigenous kids to improve their skills. It was realized that the program not only improved their numeracy and literacy skills but also boosted the confidence of children. They enjoyed studying more and had a social platform to connect with peers. Read more about this project here.

Lastly, we asked Sneha about the launch of Principle 8 “Be Responsive” and what it means to SV Aotearoa’s work. She said that Principle 8 is one of the most pivotal aspects of impact management and that “you’re not just doing it for the numbers but doing it to improve, to maximize impact, to make better decisions”. Being responsive is essential for the world today – “we are here to build a better world every single day; the question is are we doing enough? What can we do better?”.

SV Japan

Unlike its Western counterparts, Social Value Japan (SVJ) is not a member-based organization but focuses more on consulting services for organizations that seek to maximize the social value of their investments. Since the ESG investment boom in 2015, the majority of SVJ’s clients have been from the private sector, again, in contrast to many of NGOs and foundations that Social Value Canada typically works with. SVJ provides the building blocks for these corporations to help achieve their impact goals in compliance with global standards. This involves research and development, and capacity building for SROI evaluation methods.

With the aim to accelerate private sector contributions towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Social Value International (SVI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) signed an agreement to set standards for management decisions to deliver impact. Both the UNDP and SVI are co-creating training materials on the SDG Impact Standards to:

  1. Train and accredit a global network of trainers who can then train current and potential users, assurers and related parties on the SDG Impact Standards
  2. Drive awareness and adoption of the SDG Impact Standards by broadening reach through both global networks
  3. Create a culture and shared language for integrating impact management, sustainability and the SDGs into management decision-making in the private sector in line with the SDG Impact Standards.

Organizations that comply with these standards will be given a certification seal, allowing them to claim their contributions to SDG goals.

The SDG Impact certification has garnered much interest from the Japanese private sector, which seeks to measure its impact beyond ESG indicators in order to gain a competitive edge. As the leading expert in SROI evaluation methods, SVJ will play an important role in guiding Japanese corporations to adopt the best practices and governance structures, ensuring that corporations are effectively contributing to SDG goals. Currently, Social Value Japan is working with UNDP and Social Value International (SVI) to prepare for the development and provision of a training package for SDG impact certification for Japanese organizations.

SV Thailand

Although Social Value Thailand (SVTH) was formed relatively recently in 2017, the organization’s influence has remarkably grown in a short amount of time. Since its inception, SVTH has trained over a thousand practitioners, mostly driven by the private sector, state-owned enterprises, and educational institutions. In Thailand, there is a recognized urgency to reach the global sustainable development goals, as well as an acknowledgement that things must change in the way we evaluate impact. This, among other factors, has allowed the social value movement to flourish in Thailand. Capital markets have encouraged the private sector to report their sustainability performance, motivating corporations to get ahead of the curve and prove their contributions to society. The interest was followed by universities, who are often concerned about their rankings and thus want to prove the social impact of their research to communities. Likewise, Thailand’s ministry of education wants to appropriately quantify the investments of their research funds for universities.

Today, embedding social value thinking is becoming a norm for Thailand’s National Innovation Agency, whose grant applicants are encouraged to conduct an SROI before applying. Due to the overwhelming demand to conduct SROIs, SVTH launched a digital SROI calculator to allow grant applicants to measure their impact through an SROI calculator before their application, where hundreds of millions of dollars were invested through that calculator. In addition, SVTH also launched a social value bank called Open Impact Data, not only to ensure appropriate, consistent, and transparent methods of impact reporting by CRS managers and accredited practitioners, but also to share the best SROI practices. It offers 3 key functions:

  1. A hub for impact creators to exchange information and mentorship
  2. A display of suitable indicators and metrics of achievement for desired outcomes
  3. Impact analysis to assess and compare performance benchmarks

The sophisticated online tool consolidates the information of impact creators and assessors, that are used by both. Users have access to projects across Thailand that can be filtered by sector, SDG stream, geography, and more.

SV Italy

Co-founded in 2013, Social Value Italia (SVi) is a multi-stakeholder initiative resulting from the collaboration among various sectors including big NGOs, banks, the public sector, and more. As social valuation and other sustainability terms emerged, Social Value Italia sought to leverage its diversity to establish a cross-industry alignment regarding impact evaluation. Today, Social Value Italia acts as a standard-setter in Italy.

In recent years, SVI has been spearheading projects on Corporate Welfare and Impact Evaluation. In this context, corporate welfare refers to activities financed by corporations with the goal of improving the well-being of their employees, typically through benefits. Last year, Italy’s government provided 74 million euros to a total of 127 companies to support new corporate welfare projects. Given the radical change induced by COVID-19, talent retention has been a challenge for many organizations, as people re-evaluate their relationship with work.

Prior to the pandemic, Social Value Italia created a working group with the aim of outlining and analyzing the social impact evaluation practices implemented by companies adopting corporate welfare policies. After collecting data through surveys, SVI published a paper with their findings along with a call to action for corporations, stressing the importance of:

  1. The change caused by corporate welfare policies generates tangible benefits for the workers, families, and their communities. There was a strong emphasis on parenthood.
  2. Limiting the scope of the evaluation to direct recipients of the policies
  3. Multi-stakeholder approach in the participatory process to ensure a multidisciplinary perspective

SV United States

SV U.S. was launched in 2017 and Sara Olsen told us about the development of the social value agenda in the US.

In the US there is a rather pronounced distrust of anything associated with the word “social”, this is because the very first culture war term was about the concept of socialism/communism. The mindset is that individuals should be responsible for their own welfare, and that philanthropists can fill in where needed. Sara Olsen also mentioned that especially in more recent decades the right wing has become very skilled in linking certain words with fear.

This development is very unfortunate because the US especially could benefit from a lively social value movement. The country has experienced and is living through the consequences of hyper-capitalism. There is a definite need to address equity and poverty issues, and to take action to preserve the middle class.

In terms of projects, SV U.S. is coordinating an effort on a “body of knowledge” that will be useful for the impact management profession. They are currently developing a draft and looking at events that could bring interested people together.

When asked about the launch of Principle 8 Sara said it is a great advance and means that just asking people to measure their impact does not get the job done. There needs to be a shift in emphasis to improving performance – Principle 8 reflects that movement in the broader field.

Changing the Way the World Accounts for Value

  As you can see, the social value movement manifests itself in varying ways across the world! The world is starting to notice that valuing wellbeing when measuring the impact of policies is an essential piece of the puzzle to solve our world’s perpetual issues.

From corporate welfare, to a national evaluation platform, to collaboration with Indigenous populations and much more, there is a lot that we can learn from in Canada. We hope that you found these initiatives to be just as interesting as we did. Thank you for reading!

For more information about our international network, and to learn more about social value happenings around the world including ongoing conversations about Beyond ESG, check out the SVI blog.