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SROI – at the awkward adolescent stage?

The SROI methodology for valuing impacts is coming of age. But it is a difficult age which begs important questions. The biggest question is perhaps the presumption that a valuation can be achieved through assigning quantitative financial values to any kind of impact.

After that, perhaps the next most important is: what should it be used for? The current choice is to help mission-driven organisations produce a fairly quick evaluation of the difference they make in the world. It does that well, even if there remain a number of questions about how it goes about that task.

However there are two other huge areas to which SROI could make a difference, although that would require a modification of its methods. One such area is the social impact of mainstream companies. Where ordinary commercial interests and value flows are a large part of the impact, an SROI-like methodology must confront the question of what the total impact of an organisation is, rather than only what difference it makes. The technical reasons for that I have spelt out in an blog on the Social Value International website.

The other big area is public policy-making. As Daniel Fujiwara has pointed out with some care, the adoption of an SROI-like methodology in policy-making circles would require SROI to adopt the kind of rigour that underlies current cost-benefit analyses.

So, a bit like an adolescent, SROI needs to decide exactly what it wants to do in the world.

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