I wanted to raise the issue of social return on investment (SROI) as it is something that is rising in prominence among both the charity sector and government, and also across the world. In short it is a way of measuring outcomes that aren't always easy to measure, and representing the outcomes within an economic framework. Most of the talk about SROI is around getting charities to use it to measure what they do and therefore be able to attract funding etc. But I think there is wider scope for this, firstly to get all sectors - voluntary, public and private - to use it, and secondly as an additional way to measure national profit (social profit that is). The UK government is already looking into it (more about that in the Demos report linked below) and there is work going on in France around this too by the Commission on the measurement of economic performance and social progress which states,
"Its aim is to identify the limits of GDP as an indicator of economic performance and social progress, to consider additional information required for the production of a more relevant picture, to discuss how to present this information in the most appropriate way, and to check the feasibility of measurement tools proposed by the Commission." (http://www.stiglitz-sen-fitoussi.fr/en/index.htm)
There seems to be something similar going on in Butan wehre they measure 'Gross National Happiness' - http://www.idrc.ca/en/ev-61364-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html - although the reason's behind it are slightly different.
So my thoughts are that i would firstly like to see something like SROI introduced as an alternative way to measure 'social' profit, important for charities but also for private companies as a way of encouraging them to be more socially profitable. I would like to see schemes like a company allowing their staff to give up a certain number of hours a year to do something that gives back to society, and companies can be measured and show the public how socially profitable they are. This could also be done in terms of donating office space to other schemes, providing a certain amount of free training for people, perhaps charities, or community schemes (eg IT courses), it could be volunteering in a local library, sponsoring a teacher etc. This would all work better with the policy to reduce the working week we agreed on at our first cabinet meeting, creating jobs that are better for society (someone recently termed this 'family-shaped jobs' and I might write more about that in a different discussion).
I had envisaged a while ago a sort of stock market for charities (to help funders/supporters know more about how socially profitable they are) but i think that idea would work well in terms of showing how socially profitable companies are, allowing the public to see this, and encouraging companies to compete and be innovative around not just monetary profit but also social.
Secondly - I'd like the UK to work towards measuring our Gross National Happiness, although i think the term well-being is better and more widely accepted. There is probably a way you could work this out from the results of SROI, in the same way we work out GDP - buy I'm no economist!
That's all, please do add your thoughts, have a look at the resouces..