Indexing and measuring social change impact… it’s important to (relatively) prove outcomes.

This is an important issue (especially as 2021 is the year of ‘levelling-up’ according to Government) and should directly influence all design/commissioning of social impact projects that support people to live better, healthier, productive lives. But most people will not have heard of indexation or measuring outcome success over time or against comparators (needed to prove ‘levelling-up’).

An index is a reference. If you index something then you are explaining where it sits in relation to other things. Indexing social change is about expressing human (micro and macro) issues and change in relation to other factors such as economics, personal relationships, broader societal gain, even happiness and/or aspirations. In this way indexing is about forming a (measurable) position of now against where we wish to go to in the future and relating it to these factors. A social change index helps us create some consistent meaning in what matters to people and how much they change.

There are a number of indexes in the social field. For example, at the individual level a Global Assessment of Functioning tells us how people understand the world (related to a wider average), at a group level we compare employment and earnings categories (over time or across areas), at a societal level we measure and compare average life expectancy and demographic issues. All are indexes providing useful comparisons and a way to understand people, social change aims.

In all this indexing, it is fair to say that a simpler, more comprehensive/integrated index is needed to better understand people and change in a wider way. One that gathers the things that matter in social change and to people. To truly understand human growth, an index that is multi-layered is required to provide a fully rounded view of improvement. This would be best designed by taking parts of the available indexes and bringing them together so the reference is reliable, robust and meaningful (in a quantifiable and qualifiable way [to know we have ‘levelled-up’]).

Indexes coming together - Creating a new (combined and comprehensive) social impact index

It is suggested the following model is adopted, grouping 4 dimensions of change impact:

Objective Measurable Indicator Subjective
Quantified Harder Data Softer Data Qualified
GDP/Socio-Economic Healthy/Employed Aware/Skilling/Growing Happiness/Hope

There is no implied seniority in the 4 dimensions - in this new comprehensive index – the aim is to combine the best indexes across the full human experience in the social change being considered. Satisfying all the dimensions equally is important. Showing economic gain or having a job is as important as people or groups feeling more confident or having more skills. A combined, comprehensive (but simple) index should be developed to truly demonstrate social change/impact.

The 4 groupings in the table above should be used. Whilst any social change will define its own specific measuring/outcomes, the index used to measure or value the change will be representative of the 4 groupings/dimensions above because this combines the right balance of measurable and interpretated outcomes that prove the change/benefit to society, groups and individuals.

The annex attached describes in greater detail the reasoning. Each impact scheme will have its own outcomes and success requirements, but all should address all the 4 dimensions/groupings to properly understand the benefits being achieved, valued and proven. This allows proper measuring of human development/social change, justified in a more comprehensive and meaningful way.

Download Annex Document