Social performance/social impact/social utility evaluation

A company’s financial performance can draw on the tried and tested tools so important to funders, but how is its social performance assessed? A number of funders are starting to look at the social added value of their investments, with the result that more socially responsible indicators are appearing every year.

The primary mission of microfinance institutions (MFI) is to fight poverty and social exclusion. Measuring social performance would seem intrinsic to this mission. However, the question arises of whether they play an effective role in this fight and whether the financial services they offer are suited to it. Social performance indicators are vital at a time when MFI are subject to a great many problems—including outstanding payments, bankruptcies and massive loss of interest by clients—and criticism. In seeking to make disadvantaged populations’ access to the basic financial services of savings and credit profitable by applying increasingly similar techniques and rules to those used in commercial finance, does not microfinance risk appearing as a segment of the international finance market targeting the destitute?

Solidarity finance sees microcredit and savings as tools to be used for human and social development. Its core activity therefore comprises strengthening social ties, adapting to the contexts and environments it operates in, structuring social capital and helping its clients to become autonomous. It is thus necessary to create indicators for identifying and placing value on the real work undertaken by solidarity finance, and translate its social mission into practical terms.

Extended to other sectors of economic activity, social performance lies at the confluence of questions about what we consider as wealth at a macro level and social responsibility at company level.

The social utility approach, for example, aims to track down all the forms of value that do not spontaneously emerge at the forefront of companies’ productive activity, something that escapes economic valuation and economic calculation.

The concept of social impact (which is widely used) differs from that of social utility in that it considers the results and impacts of an activity independently of the intentions and values of those responsible for it, and of the purpose, modes of governance and status of the organisation implementing it (extract from the definition of Glossaire DEVISUS. Définitions de l’évaluation utilité/impact social.).

2 publications

2 case studies

7 Analyses/working papers/articles

One charter/manifesto

5 public contributions