Social impact measurement: challenges and promising pathways

Stream #10

Chairs: Hans Rawhouser (University of Nevada), Irene Bengo (Politecnico di Milano), Alessia Argiolas (Università Cattolica), Benedetta De Pieri (Politecnico di Milano)

Social impact measurement is an enabling and necessary tool for improving the human condition. Effective measurement of impact is complex and involves the participation of many actors (social entrepreneurs, decision-makers of social, hybrid and non-profit enterprises, financiers, investors, policymakers and academics).

Different types of organisations are increasingly showing interest in measuring their impact to assess the social value of their activity and increase their accountability. Funders and policy makers regard it as a way to identify and scale effective practices. Despite the increasing popularity of the practices, there are important barriers.

Some examples are:

  • conflicts of different epistemological approaches to the impact concept and the social impact concept as well,
  • lack of clarity in the interlink between the different epistemological concept and the measurement methods,
  • challenges of developing shared measurement practices,
  • debates about whether qualitative or quantitative approaches should be used,
  • difficulty in assessing long-term impacts
  • lack of social impact data and high costs of quality measurement processes,
  • difficulties in management of impact measurement practices and results,
  • lack of guidelines for usage of social impact objectives and metrics as managerial decision-making instruments.          

This stream aims to bring together researchers from different backgrounds and disciplines to discuss promising pathways for facing these challenges. Particularly, we invite contribution covering the following or related topics: 

  • Theoretical approaches to social impact: definitions, ontological and epistemological stances, theories and models. 
  • Methodological issues, methods and tools to assess social impact. 
  • Empirical research identifying indicators and metrics in specific fields, sectors or industries. 
  • Management of social impact in different types of organisations (third sector, social enterprises, for-profit companies, etc.).
  • Social impact measurement in relation to progress on Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Perspectives from other disciplines (e.g. psychology, sociology, computation sciences, etc) related to social impact measurement. 
  • Perspectives from approaches to social impact from Developing Economies, 
  • Use of new technologies (e.g. blockchain technologies, satellite imagery) to improve, scale or systematize social impact measurement. 
  • Relationships between social impact measurement and the behaviour of social hybrids (e.g. balancing of social and financial objectives, mission drift). 
  • The use of social impact measurement in certifications (e.g. B corp, Fair trade)