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So you think you know what social impact is?

So you think you know what social impact is?

Ok, hand on heart, I think I know what it is, but I’m aware that each of us has a different concept of Social Impact and what it means to us.

For me, Social Impact is the effect or significant change an organisation (it can be an individual too) has on the local community, economy and environment where it operates. The impact can be positive, such as job creation, increasing spend in the locality, mentoring young people or delivering STEM lessons in a classroom to inspire the next generation. It can also be negative, increased construction can lead to bigger environmental impacts and a company bringing in lots of external people to deliver a service can undermine the job market in a local community.

When we look at our own communities, most people would like to see a fair, equal and just society.

However, in some areas, we can see that this isn’t always the case. People can be discriminated against because of the postcode they live in, creating pockets of poverty right next door to wealthier areas. Assumptions about a person can be made on appearances or the way they speak, or the fact that they didn’t fit well into the school system. We might feel uncomfortable considering employing someone with a criminal background, even though they have served their time. When we see some young people not attaining their potential because they don’t believe in themselves, or feel valued in our society, then we are possibly looking at an unfair or unjust system.

If we can identify issues we feel strongly about, then perhaps we can identify where we want to make changes, but how do we go about doing something to make a difference?

Many would agree that there are huge social and environmental challenges facing us all and we cannot do it all nor make changes by ourselves.

What difference do we want to make?

The way I see it, is that it’s firstly about focusing on what difference we want to make. What change do we want to bring about and where do we want it to happen?

Is it we want to reduce the number of young people going into NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) in West Cumbria?

Do we want to reduce our environmental impact by bringing in innovative building techniques?

Do we want to make work safer by using AI instead of exposing our staff to dangers? When we look at this option, for example, we may want to weigh this against the trade-offs between safety and any jobs lost through the adoption of AI technology.

Maybe we’ve seen the Unites Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and want to tackle 3 of them?

How can we be smart in creating the highest amount of positive impact within our resources?

It might be that the Social Impact we want to achieve is also aligned to our business interests – by increasing the number of apprenticeships on offer with us, for example, we can create a better ratio between talent acquisition and longevity of our business. That initially only looks like good business sense. However, by enabling people from more diverse backgrounds to access the programmes, it can have tremendous positive impact on individuals who otherwise might not easily find a job, such as people with learning difficulties or lack of qualifications. Finally, it can help counter the attrition of labour force from a region like Cumbria.

How can we plan our social impact activities?

Secondly, I would use Theory of Change or a similar tool to map out what actions were needed to make that positive change actually happen. By having a clear roadmap for what we are doing and understanding why we are doing it, we can have a greater and more efficient impact.

Do we go it alone?

Thirdly, I would involve others. We cannot create social change by ourselves and finding likeminded businesses and people is a great step forward as well as enabling the multiplier effect. There are great people out there doing great things and rather than duplicate efforts, we should combine our energies, put the egos outside of the door and roll up our sleeves.

BECBC Social Value Group is a great place to meet other businesses and people wanting to make a difference. We connect people so partnerships can evolve, and activity can happen. It’s also a great place to learn more about what is happening locally, as well as hear about current opportunities to get involved with.

Delivering good social impact in a community has an obvious positive impact on the beneficiaries, but it can also bring benefits to employees who are involved. The feel-good factor can give employees a real boost for their day-to-day jobs and as most of us recognise, a happy workforce is a more productive one. It can also benefit the company as a whole, perhaps supporting future tenders and helping to win contracts. And I am sure you can agree, social Impact really just makes good business sense.

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