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Social value and the triple-bottom-line

7th November 2012

A big debate in Social Enterprise circles lately has been 'social value' and its place in the development of government policy, procurement practices and changes in the economy overall. The new Social Value Act has certainly created a whole new debate at many levels - see Guardian feature by Chris White MP today here.

As a leader in social enterprise I am right behind developments taking place nationally and internationally, but I also know that the best way to make people notice and recognise social value and social impact is to get on and do it!

I've been working on plans for the coming years at Cosmic, and more recently I've narrowed my focus to the opportunities which we will have in 2013. There are plenty already! Sometimes we've been able to run the business with plenty of flexibility using a business plan which guides us towards our main goals and objectives. And of course we'll continue to build plenty of flexibility, agility and creativity into our plans as they develop. But in 2013 I think we're going to have to be guided by a smarter, more ambitious and easily measurable plan.

Alongside developing some key performance indicators to monitor our overall business performance, I've been able to produce a framework which brings financial/commercial targets, right alongside social impact and environmental impact. And so for this first time I truly think we'll have a comprehensive and complete Triple-bottom-line accounting system in place to start on January 2013. Result!

Cosmic has always been a very keen advocate of monitoring and reporting our social impact. We firmly believe that in running our social enterprise we must prove that our work achieves real social impact and that we are able to evidence that impact as needed. This approach has seen us previously publish full social accounts, social return on investment reports and other evaluation reports. But this work has always been separate from our core business plan and annual report. This time we're aiming to combine all our accounting and monitoring and reporting into one.  We're also developing the new systems which will support capture of data easily - a combination of our website built on Drupal, our CRM (Civi) and the new database systems we've been trialling- Lamplight.

I am really looking forward to evolving and improving the plan over the coming weeks so that it becomes a truly effective system for Cosmic to continue to improve, and evidence our impact. I believe that this approach will tell the story of our success like never before and give people, businesses and organisations a much better understanding of how we work as a social enterprise.