Taking Stock of the Social Economy’s Impact: Cathy Clark Speaks at OECD Global Action Summit

CASE and CASE i3 Faculty Director Cathy Clark moderated a panel for the OECD Global Action Summit “Inspiration, Innovation and Inclusion: Shaping our future with the social and solidarity economy,” in Paris on March 21st. Her panel, titled “Taking Stock of the Social Economy’s Impact” explored the importance and progress of social impact measurement practices in the social and solidarity economy for policymakers.

Photo courtesy of Victor Tonelli

At the start of the panel, OECD Policy Analyst Irene Basile announced the release of a new publication, “Policy Guide on Social Impact Measurement for the Social and Solidarity Economy.” This guide aims to improve policy framework as governments and policymakers work to increase the evidence base of outcomes of the social enterprise sector. The new guide explores examples of policies around the globe already in place to support social impact measurement and pitfalls to avoid when designing new ones. It also features guidance resources, including CASE’s Impact Measurement and Management for the SDGs Coursera course.

Additional highlights from the panel:

  • Belissa Rojas, UNDP SDG Impact lead, spoke about the UNDP’s effort to create standards. The UNDP SDG Impact standard are less about prescribing performance and more about making sure you have the right procedures in place to assure that you are measuring and managing the right things. This ensures a whole system that builds credibility around what you are claiming to achieve. She added that the UNDP’s SDG Standards cover not only enterprises but also private equity and bond investments. Currently the UNDP is also developing a seal for enterprises whose practices in working to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals have been verified.
  • Giulio Pasi, Policy Officer of Social and Sustainable Investments in the DG Employment group of the European Union, talked about the EU’s efforts to use social measurement as the language that allows for better decision-making about what is working. He said social measurement is the “technology” that brings industrial and social policy closer together. 
  • Giuseppe Guerini is spokesperson of the EESC and President of CECOP-Cicopa, both leading Italian cooperative membership organizations. He spoke about how important it has been for the cooperative movement to move from narrative to quantitative measurement. In 2020, it became a legal obligation for social cooperatives in Italy to present an annual Social Report. The data has gotten so useful that the Italian government has been able to calculate the excess benefit of services provided over the cost of tax incentives to those groups. In other words, they are saving public funds while providing needed social services.
  • Greg Spencer, entrepreneur and founder of Commons Good Market place, told a story from his days as a founding entrepreneur when they saw sales increase but product usage decreasing to only 20%. His team used this measurement data to step in to change how the product was delivered and educate customers, eventually resulting in increasing product usage to over 90%. He became convinced that verifications aid credibility in measurement and his new venture, Common Good Market Place, is a new market space that aims to drive funding for enterprises with 3rd party verified social outcomes.

Overall, the panel highlighted many bright spots emerging in the realm of social measurement, including new standards, better verifications, cost-benefit analysis for interventions, and expanded funding for training and capacity. The panel agreed that impact measurement has become one of the most important topics of discussion across development, impact investing, ESG, and sustainability and that the fact that is it receiving such attention now from policymakers is a great sign of progress and importance.