Different forms of monitoring and evaluating social innovation initiatives (SII) are needed to respond to the concerns and questions of different stakeholders and to meet needs that arise at different stages in the development of SII. The established social innovation measurement paradigm, which is based on positivism and is grounded in economics-based methods, responds to some but not to all of these needs. It is ill-suited to explore, account for, or to support potentially-transformative social innovation. Furthermore, issues of causality and attribution are especially problematic in the case of societally transformative social innovation, which engages with complex systems and involves lines of influence that cut across levels of scale. There can also be incompatibilities between the asset-based cultures of SII and the use of deficit-based evaluation approaches. These concerns have led to calls to improve existing methods, but also to develop new evaluation frameworks that would address the limitations of conventional approaches (e.g. Antadze and Westley 2012). We propose that social return on investment (SROI) analysis pays more attention to the stories of people involved; e.g. those helped by a SII and involved professionals in respect to their co-production experiences working with SII. This is needed to explain the social innovation to interested outsiders, including what it is intended to achieve, its way of working, and its influences on outcomes. Focussing on only those factors that can be measured may keep from view essential factors and processes in influencing or achieving outcomes. For fostering innovation and improvement of social innovation, Developmental Evaluation (Patton, 2011) and Dynamic Evaluation (Kieboom and Vahl, 2014) are useful new methods. Since there are many potential purposes to be served and these change between stages in the development of SII, using several different evaluation methods can add value. The design and choice of evaluation method should be fit for purpose and context in each application. Action research can help in evaluating SII, as recent experience shows (e.g. Hobson et al., 2016). [Authors' abstract].
Weaver, P. M. and Kemp, R. (2017) A review of evaluation methods relevant for social innovation : with suggestions for their use and development (TRANSIT working paper # 14, July 2017), TRANSIT: EU SSH.2013.3.2-1 Grant agreement no: 613169.
Stay informed. Subscribe for project updates by e-mail.