Social Audit Network (SAN) Frameworks

Social Audit establishes a team to measure the creation of social good, which includes representatives of the stakeholders.  It is extremely powerful for ensuring that an organisation is clear about its social aims, values and objectives, and that the outcomes or objectives of a particular programme or service are clear and align with the organisation's social aims, values and objectives.  It is a comprehensive framework which allows an organisation to build on existing information systems to account for and report on its social, environmental and economic performance.

The SAN (Social Audit Network) represents the standards body and can provide external independent auditors to verify an organisation's Social Audit and add credibility with funding bodies.

An audit is often resource-intensive and goes through three stages:

  • Planning
  • Accounting
  • Reporting and audit

The unique feature of SAN is that the process is verified by an independent external Social Auditor.

This page is part of a longer article on how best to measure and report social good.  I hope you enjoy it and I'd be delighted with comment and criticism.  You can find out more about the whole series at this page.

Although these standard approaches take more work and often require an independent consultant or auditor to verify the work done, this makes them much more credible with organisations that provide the funding, or with Council Members/ Trustees/ the concerned Public who want to be sure that their money is being spent wisely.

SWOT

Strengths

Weaknesses

Forces the organisation to clarify the social responsibility of a whole organisation or division of an organisation, and how it is abiding by its guiding principles

Includes stakeholders on the panel so the social good reported represents the social good received by the stakeholders

Regular reporting reminds people of the aims, values and objectives of the organisation.  A Social Audit would usually be included in the organisation's Annual Report

Verified by an external accredited auditor (although any of the other processes could use an accredited auditor)

Fairly resource-intensive.  A Pentagon Partnership report indicated that organisations didn’t keep up their commitment and resources and therefore didn’t complete the SAN, though this will depend on whether the funding providers make SAN a priority or not

Doesn't translate the benefits into a financial value, making it difficult to demonstrate Value for Money or to make decisions on how to make investments of resource

Opportunities

Threats

Can build up expertise (eg SAN is respected regionally in North East England because of strong championing by Traidcraft) and interest until it becomes the de-facto approach

SA (and the Social Accounting Network (SAN)) put in place a set of principles that can be used for many other purposes, including other forms of Social Reporting such as SROI

Useful internally for management purposes

Many investors including commissioners of services, grant awarding bodies and the public want to see what Value for Money has been achieved.  If the social good reporting resists assigning a financial equivalent value, then it risks being overlooked by people wanting a "headline" of effectiveness

Making decisions using Social AuditResource Use

Social Audit can require a full-time team including representatives from your stakeholders - it can be a very powerful management tool but with a corresponding cost.

You can also take a much lighter touch approach, and put in place measures in all of your management processes which collect the data, only reviewing them periodically for example in time for management decisions.

Verifiable

Ideally, all Social Audits will be verified by a qualified external Social Auditor (accredited by the Social Audit Network SAN) before being published.  This adds a level of credibility although the external Social Auditor may not get to see how the information was gathered and collected as the only requirement is that they chair a panel discussing the report.  It is unlikely that Social Audits will include systematic bias.

Quantified

Social Audit generally does not report the value of any benefit, unless it has been measured in financial terms from the start - it doesn't, for example like SROI, try to assign a Financial Equivalence.

However many Social Auditors use SROI or Cost-Benefit techniques to include this information in Social Audits

What it is good for

Social Audit reports how well an organisation is performing against its stated aims for social good.  It is a powerful management tool for decisions taken internally and focusse the organisation.  Also because it is externally verified, it has high credibility with stakeholders including many funding bodies such as Local Councils and Central Government.

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