Co-Constructing Social Impact


Suppose that social impact is constructed in a way that spans the different actors in the ecosystem of a business and development activities. Such is the approach taken by numerous organizations in Social Value France which carry out impact measurement and management—referred to as a social impact assessment in this context.  Members of SV France advocate for enriching the dialogue among impact partners by searching for a more qualitative and comprehensive evaluation of programs, products and services in order to elevate the path for people typically left out of the solution process.  While the approach of the organizations involved in Social Value France vary a bit from each other, they share a common incontrovertible value of co-constructing social impact.

Here’s how it works

Evaluation methods are necessary if one is to reflect the realities on the ground.  No single method is clearly preferable over others and typically a combination of quantitative indicators, social return on investment and more qualitative methods can be utilized.

Illustration 1. A social impact measurement effort in the City of Rennes focused on developing joint solutions about social cohesion and reduction of inequalities in particular neighborhoods. The City engaged multiple methodologies, including document review, interviews and surveys and engaged  stakeholders in the focal neighborhoods and surrounding areas throughout the entire process. 

Illustration 2. A social impact measurement project focused on the effectiveness of investments aimed to have a positive impact  (social, environmental and economic) on France’s inclusive mobility.  The performance of the impact investment group and the underlying portfolio companies were  both highly included and contractually obligated to participate in  this social impact measurement project, including setting up IMM systems. An external firm supported them in the design of methods, common indicators measuring activities and results, and survey construction. 

Stakeholders were systematically engaged in the IMM as follows:

  • Initial mapping of all stakeholders, and an analysis of their expectations and engagements by the impact investor and portfolio companies
  • survey data collected from stakeholders
  • sharing survey results with stakeholders
  • reviewing an action plan for the improvement areas developed by the investor and portfolio companies.
  • Reviewing annual reports on the action plan and results

In both of these cases, an ecological model was employed as illustrated in the visual below.


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Source:  Fraisse, Henri, Gharib, Lydie and Rosales Montano, Silvia, Deploiement des ODD dans la commune de Saint-Fons (metropole de Lyon):  le challenge de la mise en place des ODD dans une commune de taille moyen, Un breve presentation Saint-Fons (Rhone).


It is important to acknowledge risks that are inherent in the co-creation of solutions throughout the stakeholder engagement process in impact measurement and management.   First, social impact takes time and requires the involvement of various actors.  This can result in power issues that will need to be addressed.  Second, the results of the evaluation may not meet intended expectations for impact, or
not reflect what a private sector venture initially wanted to show. Negative effects generated by a business may be highlighted or bring out internal or external difficulties.  

To mitigate these risks, it is therefore important to remain flexible in order to be able to adjust it in the course of the journey. Additionally, it is essential to keep the spirit that starting this kind of march is beneficial in and of itself. 

On a practical level, success is more likely if any of the following elements are built into stakeholder engagement in IMM process.

  • The IMM the process is simple and pragmatic.
  • You can’t value everything.  Choose a framing question that provides a focus to the impact measurement and management process and that is an area where decisionmaking is relevant and actionable.  
  • A common indicator framework is developed.
  • Qualitative methods are included.
  • Companies responsible for delivering impact  are contractually required to regularly track and report indicators.
The benefit

Taking the perspective of viewing business and development activities in the context of  social and solidarity economy, co-construction represents alignment of various values which better society while supporting the needs of public sector and private sector actors.  

Assessing social impact allows for continuous improvement.  This creates more effective delivery of programmes, services and products such as the following. 

  1. Understanding and documenting your own processes and thereby centralize the process for managing for impact.  
  2. Reassuring your business about positive impacts.
  3. Develop awareness of negative effects so that they can be better mitigated
  4. Build up and motivate working teams.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, stakeholder engagement is essential for achieving both transformative solutions at both the local and societal levels.

For further immersion into this approach, partners in SV France have authored several briefs and reports.  Here are a select few.

Prepared by Jane Reisman, Social Impact Advisor, with input and source documents provided from Social Value France members and leadership from Louise Derochechouart. 

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