Description

The Social Impact Measurement Unit is a service offered by the French Red Cross General Management which aims to support the organisation’s employees and volunteers in measuring their social impact. It has four main objectives: to provide the French Red Cross with a tool for the global management of its impact (impact indicators of the 2030 Strategy); to produce information on the social impact of the French Red Cross’s activities (on request); to increase the skills and autonomy of French Red Cross volunteers in measuring their impact; to capitalize on the various initiatives taken on the subject internally and externally.

Context

Accountability, continuous improvement and the creation of social value are increasingly important considerations for actors in the public, private and voluntary sectors. In the field of the social and solidarity economy, whose various entities are distinguished by their desire to work for the collective good, these issues are all the more important. Social and Solidarity-based Economy  associations and enterprises seek to produce a positive social impact, and must also meet increasingly complex social and societal objectives. Faced with these expectations and ambitions, they are encouraged to demonstrate that the activities implemented do indeed produce the desired effects on the people they support. It is in this perspective that social impact assessment has become increasingly important in the social economy. In this context, the French Red Cross has chosen to internalize this social impact measurement competence, in order to:

  •  Implement a continuous improvement process and readjust activities if necessary;
  • Establish an objective exchange with partners in a transparent manner;
  • Give value and meaning to the commitment of employees and volunteers

Technical details & Operations

In this perspective, the Social Impact Assessment Unit offers the following services: 

  • Production: the MIS (Social Impact Assessment Unit) team produces impact studies, social impact indicators and recommendations to inform activity and advocacy (specific studies on Relais Parentaux, CAA, etc.; general studies on the response to the Covid crisis or the FIU’s overall activity; French Red Cross  Strategy 2030 impact indicator repository, etc.)
  • Tools: the Social Impact Assessment Unit team provides generic tools (digital Impact Track self-assessment tool; action sheets and toolbox, etc.), guides (scaling-up guide, experimentation report, external guides, etc.), training and awareness-raising materials (PPT training support) and methodologies (capitalisation report) to enable volunteers to produce the information themselves. It also co-constructs tailor-made tools to enable teams to measure the specific impact of their activity (Third-Party Evaluation Tool; impact scoring tool to estimate the potential impact of projects requesting internal funding, etc.). It is also developing a database of indicators adapted to the French Red Cross’s activities.
  • Support: the Social Impact Assessment Unit team guides French Red Cross  volunteers who want to start measuring their impact (as part of a funding application, project evaluation, etc.). It helps them to produce information on their impact themselves by coaching them, organising regular meetings and co-producing useful information with them. If they use an external service provider, she also helps them to define the specifications, to pre-identify the most relevant service providers and participates in follow-up meetings during the production of the study.
  • Training and awareness-raising: the MIS (Social Impact Assessment Unit) team has developed internal training on MIS to help the French Red Cross volunteers use the tools provided, and it also organises training by external providers. It is developing a web portal to make relevant tools available and to provide information on the approach to people interested in the subject. It organises discussions with the teams, produces awareness-raising materials (awareness-raising videos for employees and volunteers, PPTs presenting the approach, etc.) and works to institutionalise social impact measurement in all French Red Cross’s internal processes and data collection tools.

Four main phases can be distinguished in the production of impact studies:

  • A scoping phase, which aims to produce the assessment framework. Interviews will be held with the people carrying out the project in order to understand the needs, activities and impacts generated. This information will be modelled to present a summary of the way in which the project produces effects (change modelling). This synthetic view of the activity and the identification of the main impacts are reviewed, validated and refined during a collaborative workshop
  • A data collection phase, which aims to identify and collect data related to the identified impacts. During this phase, the impacts are broken down into indicators. For each indicator, collection tools (mainly interviews, questionnaires and/or focus groups) are developed to enable the indicator to be produced. These collection tools are then completed by the teams on the basis of exchanges with the people supported.
  • The third phase corresponds to data analysis: the Social Impact Assessment Unit team quantifies and qualifies the impact indicators and writes up the results of the study on the basis of the data collected.
  • The last phase is the feedback and dissemination phase: meetings are organised with the teams concerned to present the results, gather their feedback and identify any recommendations for the continuation of the project.

Deployment & Impact

The French Red Cross (FRC) has a strong ambition for quality. It has been encouraging and proposing project evaluation approaches for many years and began to look more specifically at measuring its social impact in the early 2010s. A three-year partnership agreement was first signed with ESSEC (a french business school)  in 2012, which provided for the development of a methodological framework and the evaluation of projects of strategic interest and innovative projects. On the strength of this first initiative, it was decided to extend the experience and integrate the competence and expertise of impact measurement within a Social Observatory in 2014, among other tasks. This body is part of the tools developed and studies carried out to meet the occasional needs for impact assessment of the French Red Cross’s voluntary activities. Some ad hoc impact measurement initiatives were also taken by project leaders.

In 2017, the French Red Cross’s General Management decided to boost the organisation’s social innovation and a diagnosis was carried out, which led to the development of an Innovation strategy and an action plan divided into 15 main workstreams. One of them was the development of a social impact measurement system at the level of the French Red Cross. The observation was that the French Red Cross has competence in impact assessment, but only a limited part of its activity can benefit from it. The objective set by the governance was twofold: to provide the French Red Cross with the capacity to measure its impact across all its activities and throughout France; and to create a culture of impact assessment within the association.

A process of internalising impact measurement was thus developed over three years, with an initial phase of nine months to frame the project: initial diagnosis, definition of the methodological development project, funding applications, setting up teams and identifying the most suitable tools and approaches. The second phase consisted of experimenting with the production of impact studies: 8 studies were launched (1 global (all French Red Cross’s), 1 territorial (on Reunion Island) and 6 for the operational directorates), not all of which were completed, but which made it possible to test the tools and methods identified, to improve them, to identify good practices and points for attention (a feedback workshop was organised, which led to the production of an experimentation report) The final 18-month phase consisted of finalising the impact measurement tools, formalising the service offer, developing the economic model, identifying a digital self-assessment tool and developing all other components of the service offer.

In order to increase its skills on the subject of social impact measurement, the French Red Cross has made the following choices:

Capitalise on what has already been done internally and externally: identify existing resources, whether they be documents, tools, methodologies, resource persons, etc. A capitalisation report was produced at the beginning of the project to identify the most appropriate methodologies according to the impact assessment needs

To be accompanied by experts: support from a university partner (the Social Utility Research Group) in order to design its overall steering tool for the French Red Cross support from an external consultancy firm (Kimso) in the individual training of people

Co-constructing the tools: a cross-functional Project Committee, bringing together representatives of the departments concerned by the MIS (Social Impact Assessment Unit) at headquarters (operational departments, HRD, DFI, private partnerships, etc.) as well as regional referents, meets every six weeks in order to share its needs, feedback, advice and contributions on the tools chosen and developed, so as to ensure that they are truly adapted to the needs and constraints of the actors on the ground

Working with external partners: 

  • The French Red Cross has a global vision of social impact and assumes that it must be the result of a collective reflection to enhance the synergies and complementarities of the efforts invested by all Social and Solidarity-based Economy actors. Furthermore, she is convinced that associations have every right to co-construct this benchmark, which could be useful to other actors interested in an approach of this nature. 
  • It has therefore developed a partnership with Restos du Coeur, Emmaüs and Petits Frères des Pauvres in order to carry out this joint reflection and enable other associations to benefit from this increase in skills.
  • In conjunction with the SOS Consulting Group, the French Red Cross  also assists many Social and Solidarity-based Economy actors in building a sustainable approach to evaluating and enhancing the social impact of their projects so that this approach can be democratised and gradually made accessible to all. 
  • It is also a member of a PMER network within the French Red Cross Movement and has set up a partnership with the German Red Cross to exchange good practices and increase mutual skills.

Disseminate skills: it seems essential that this skill of measuring social impact is not the prerogative of just a few people within the French Red Cross, but that several human resources are available at head office, but above all in the regions, to support French Red Cross volunteers. It was therefore decided from the outset to identify regional advisors who could provide support to those involved as closely as possible to their needs and make self-evaluation tools available.