Skills: HEAR, Better business

Measuring social impact

NORCAS is one of the East of England’s leading addiction charities. On behalf of the Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT) it routinely collects information against a set of nationally established indicators which monitor clients drug and alcohol use and other factors. However, NORCAS is aware that the impact of its work with its clients and those effected by their addictive behavior goes much more broadly than the direct benefits of reducing alcohol and substance misuse. NORCAS wanted a programme that would evaluate the change that comes about for clients, their families and communities as a result of its work.

Ci designed an approach inspired by some of the principals of Social Return on Investment (SROI) but with a much deeper qualitative and investigative emphasis. Central to our method was to involve key stakeholder groups in order to discover the full breadth of material change from their point of view. To this end we involved local authorities (housing and community safety), probation and police services, the employment service, health services as well as clients and those closest to them.

This is just what we hoped it would be

Maggie Williams CEO NORCAS

Three very different NORCAS programmes were identified. A considerable amount of qualitative work was conducted with each stakeholder group and outcomes agreed. Am outcomes survey was developed and implemented on a three monthly basis over 18 months.

Three reports have been produced. An interim report identified the outcomes of each programme for each stakeholder group. A technical report detailed the findings of the outcomes survey and the estimates of social value and social dividend. The summary findings bring together the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the study to provide a comprehensive understanding of social impact.

The process of completing the study has been as meaningful as its findings. This was the first time that clients had met together to explore in such depth the changes – negative and positive – that they experience as a result of NORCAS programmes. The recognition of the broader change such as closer family relationships, the joy of reading a book, changes to self-esteem  were particularly appreciated by those who work for the organisation and who felt that these outcomes are often missed by statutory data collection.

NORCAS based a full AGM around the topic and has used the study as an opportunity for dialogue with funders and stakeholders and the public.