Academic journal article Management & Marketing

Social Impact Measurement in Social Entrepreneurial Organizations

Academic journal article Management & Marketing

Social Impact Measurement in Social Entrepreneurial Organizations

Article excerpt

Introduction

Social entrepreneurship is the action of a social entrepreneur with a social mission that recognises a social problem and addresses it by means of social innovation and in terms of creating social impact and social value by benefiting both the business (sustainability) and society (scalability). For a better understanding of why we need to measure the social impact that is created through social entrepreneurship we will present the following key concepts: social problem, social innovation and social impact.

To begin with, social problems are not easily definable despite being the starting point of every social entrepreneur's initiative. Some may be self-evident, like poverty, illnesses or violence. But others may be less obvious and need time to take shape or to be accurately articulated, like discrimination, social injustice, and social discrepancies. We think that understanding societal needs requires interest, attention, patience (time), empathy and emotional intelligence. Bornstein (2003) discovered most of the stories on how to change the world through various discussions with regular people, while making use of his interest and empathy to define the ideas depicted in his work.

Moving on to innovation, it has become one of the most popular words of this decade, mostly because technological advancements and the survival in a competitive environment are based almost solely on it. The areas of study connected to the concept cover the business environment to information technologies. Innovation may occur or be sought out in different fields: social, technological, business, environmental, financial. The type of innovation that is relevant to our study is social innovation which together with social entrepreneurship addresses the problems of today's society. Even though social innovation does not represent a new idea, it only recently developed into a standalone concept that addresses the societal needs triggered by the problems of the society that are to be solved through innovative ideas. Innovation cannot be referred to without also taking into account the impact it brings upon society (be it positive or negative), the way society changes its course and its habits and shapes its future.

In this light, it is difficult to assess and quantify which social problem affects us more severely or is more stringent to be solved, and the questions arise: which solution can have a greater impact, how is its outcome measured or who are the target groups of its impact? When we bring into discussion the phrase "greater impact", we underline the necessity of measuring things because measurement allows us to compare and arrange them in an order that is more functional and provides a clearer understanding of categories. Social impact is probably the most volatile term in the entire field of social study, as measuring impact assumes there should be a correlation between the proposed objectives and the actual results. However, each social entrepreneurial organization and each social innovation action target objectives differently, based on cultural context, understanding of the social problem to be addressed, the social value that is to be created as well as the ethical issues involved.

Thus, is it possible to design a "one size fits all" social impact measurement suitable for all social objectives proposed, even though they might differ greatly in scale? The main question addressed by the present paper is "why measure and how to measure social impact?" taking into account all the factors that have been previously presented.

Definitions of relevant concepts

Social innovation and social entrepreneurship

Ambiguity governs the field of social innovation in terms of a commonly agreed upon definition of the concept. Though there have been many articles written on it, researchers seem to have failed to create a common definition. This fact can also be put on the expense that the phenomenon of social innovation is complex. …

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