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Partially Sighted Social Enterprise

Impact of social firms for blind and partially sighted people

Partnership between London South Bank University (Dept of Management) and  Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)

Impact highlights: Exceeded expectations with high/significant impacts reported by both partners. The extension of the original objectives to a much broader remit - social impact measurement – has had a major unexpected impact on the organisation, covering the whole of RNIB's activity, including employment, and the application of impact reporting across the organisation, with Director level support and financial commitment to embed the tools and processes developed, increased partnership working across voluntary sector organisations, and a sharing of resources and products for the benefit of staff and customers.

Objectives: To develop a business case including SROI calculations to persuade private and public sectors to invest in Social Firms or create Social Firms themselves to create employment opportunities for blind and partially sighted people.  

Results for the Company Partner

  • RNIB is the UK's leading charity offering information, support and advice to almost two million people with sight loss, employing around 2,500 people and working with 4,000 volunteers across the UK. In a difficult economic climate and to attract and retain funders and supporters RNIB needs to demonstrate the impact of its work. 
  • The project encountered some early difficulties in creating consensus on a strategy for social firms within RNIB and its partners; at the same time the new knowledge gathered about social impact measurement generated interest in other parts of the organisation. The original social firm development aims were therefore scaled back and a new aim added to build capacity to measure the social impact of RNIB's services. 
  • The KTP has created an evidence base of RNIB services, improving impact of services and an increasing commitment to and growing awareness of the value of impact reporting. It has contributed to the RNIB strategy of supporting independent living by helping blind people retain and gain employment, providing evidence of the value of RNIB's involvement in job creation especially through social enterprise and social firms. A business plan has been developed for expanding the activities of Viewpoint, a social firm involved in telephone market research, leading to increased future employment. 
  • The KTP has had a very significant impact on management practice within RNIB and has initiated a culture change within the organisation, supported by senior management.  New knowledge and capabilities acquired as a result of the KTP include:
    o   Design of research, data collection and analysis to collect evidence of social outcomes and impacts
    o   Development of systematic data collection frameworks to understand the outcomes of RNIB services and its social firms on the wider community
    o   Development of monitoring tools to assess the cost-benefit of services, including social firm services, and promote efficiency
    o   Development of SROI models to feed directly into marketing and corporate social responsibility campaigns to promote and secure continued funding from commissioners and public and private partnerships and donors.
    o   Implementation of metrics and KPI frameworks into services and future new social firm partnerships, to monitor and maximise outcomes and assess cost-benefit analyses.
    o   Development of business plans for expanding current social firms and developing new ones
    o   RNIB have learnt the need to communicate the principles of impact reporting in a consistent way across teams, and recognise that the application of those principles to measurement needs to be bespoke. One size does not fit all in methods used to generate impact evidence 
  • Impacts on business performance due to KTP - RNIB estimate new income and capacity of £6.6m and profits of £5.6m in year 3 after the KTP, resulting from implementation of social impact measurements across the organisation and the resultant beneficial impact on services. 
  • Investments made to implement KTP results:
    o   40 staff trained in impact measurement
    o   100 more staff will be trained in use of newly developed impact measurement tools over the two years following the KTP
    o   Employment of Impact Research Project Manager (c£31,000)
  • Investment in R&D to exploit the outcomes of the KTP:  £65,000 - specific two year role of Impact Research Project Manager to continue to implement KTP outcomes

Results for the Associate

  • NVQ Level 4 / Diploma in Management Level 5
  • Post Graduate Certificate in Charity Management awarded by LSBU
  • Employment as Impact Research Project Manager with RNIB

Results for the Knowledge Base Partner

  • KTP has had important impacts on the development of LSBU's Faculty of Business staff, providing the opportunity to work on a live project in a major large charity while contributing an applied, concrete dimension to PG teaching and research programmes for the third sector. 
  • Opportunities to develop knowledge and understanding of impact measurement and SROI in the third sector, and in social enterprise and social firms and was the focus of a dedicated workshop in the Centre for International Business staff seminar programme and formed the centrepiece of a Social Enterprise Cluster workshop at LSBU with several third sector organisations represented. 
  • Lessons disseminated in Masters in Public Management and other programmes and will add to the case study examples used in teaching both at Undergraduate and Postgraduate level. 
  • Improved understanding of impact and outcome measurement will provide further opportunities for future related work.

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