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What gets measured, gets done

Posted by Maria Losacco Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Written by Elaine Reinke

“My social life is very important to me”, declares Jihad Al-Hakimi, Microfinance Manager of the Economic Opportunities Fund in Yemen, grabs his wedding ring from the table and places it above my ipad. As part of this valuation exercise, participants of the Social Return on Investment (SROI) training were asked to bring a number of personal items and rank them by their value – not so easy, given that the 21 trainees had very different views about the value of their belongings.

Considering the multiple realities of different stakeholders – that’s a core principle of SROI. Being a participatory method to assess the social, environmental, economic and other dimensions of benefits resulting from development interventions, it can be used at different stages of the project cycle: at the onset in support of planning and appraisal, during implementation for monitoring, and at completion for evaluation.
Under IFAD’s Innovation Mainstreaming Initiative, the Near East, North Africa and Europe Division is testing SROI as a new means to generate evidence-based knowledge and learning in IFAD-funded projects. Together with Fons van der Velden and Pol de Greve from Context, International Cooperation Foundation, a Netherlands-based social business providing capacity development support to development actors and social enterprises, I travelled to North Kordofan, Sudan, for the first SROI pilot.

This women of Elhamair community explains
how her life changed due to the water yard.
In the state capital El Obeid we met the male and female trainees from different projects and line ministries in Sudan and Yemen to embark on a joint learning journey over the coming 12 days. Following Context’s SROI manual, we started off with a three day classroom (yet practical) training covering the nine steps of SROI – but there went the theory. Allowing the participants to get their hands on the matter, the training has been embedded into assessing water-related activities in the IFAD-supported Western Sudan Resource Management Project.

And off we went to the field: divided into two groups, we visited the villages of Elhamair and Sawarda to capture and understand the invested resources and benefits for the local community generated by a Hafir (open pond for rainwater harvesting) and a water yard (elevated groundwater tank) that were constructed by the project in 2011 – and the value the beneficiaries attached to these resources and benefits.
Pol de Greve, Mohamed Y. Elnour and
Ahmed H. S. Mohammed
take detailed notes of resources and benefits
connected to the water yard.
For the group visiting the water yard in Elhamair, the first day in the community felt like a piece of cake: the training participants were impressively skilled facilitators letting the villagers tell their story of the water yard and how it changed their lives. At the end of the day, the community had developed its own theory of change and listed all resources, including their value, that were invested in the water yard. On the next day, we started understanding what Oscar Wilde meant by “some people always know the price but not the value”: the training participants teased out a list of some 43 benefits – but helping the beneficiaries to value these was a quite challenging task, especially when it came to intangible and indirect benefits such as reduced tensions among settlers and nomads, and empowerment of women through water users committees. But we made it – and the community rewarded us with a remarkable performance of traditional dance, singing and poetry.
Back in the classroom, we jointly reflected on the lessons learned from our field work, and then rolled up our sleeves to embark on the process of verification, analysis and report-writing for both case studies. By triangulating different sources of data, the training participants calculated the total value of all invested resources versus benefits to derive the SROI ratio. It turned out that for every dollar invested, the project generated a benefit worth 1.66 dollars in case of the Hafir and 2.5 dollars for the water yard. Pretty impressive, yet a number is just number. The important part of SROI is what Pol and Fons call “narrative numeracy”, that is embedding the number into a narrative which reveals the story behind and captures those elements that are most difficult to measure. By considering the views of multiple stakeholders, developing this story is where project-based learning is happening.

Focus group discussion with selected community
members under a shady tree of Elhamair village.
At closing time, participants looked back over the entire process and developed follow-up action plans in their respective project teams. They are now keen to conduct additional case studies and integrate these into project reporting, use SROI in mid-term reviews, organize SROI planning workshops at country-level and provide SROI training to government partners. Their plans and reflections fed into a debriefing with more than 20 government officials and local leaders in El Obeid, including HE the State Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, who also opened our workshop. The discussions demonstrated profound interest among different stakeholders in using SROI as a contribution to improve results measurement at strategic level. This will also guide Pol, Fons and myself in designing the next steps in our joint innovation project: organizing a second on-the-job training in another country in the region, and pulling the threads together in a Rome-based reflection cum write shop to develop a meaningful knowledge product on IFAD’s first experience with SROI for wider dissemination. 

7 comments

  1. I was one of the participants in SROI training workshop and I want to say that before the workshop start I wasn't know exactly what the SROI mean ...... because I haven't heard about it before.

    During the workshop I have started understanding what SROI mean,what's the purpose of it , what are the nine steps of SROI ,what are the seventh golden principles of SROI and how we can apply it in our work field.

    I want to say that I have gotten a lot of information which will help us in our work sector.

    My regards to you Elaine for your cooperative and support during the workshop and my regards to the professionals trainers Mr.Fons and Mr.Pole whom made SROI easy to understand.


    And my best regards for our colleagues from Sudan for their warm welcome Us and with whom we felt that we are brothers and we are from one country.


    Jihad Al-Hakimi

     
  2. aidaadam said:
  3. SROI method is really wonderful

    My pleasure that I had the opportunity to participate in the SROI training workshop which strongly hit and met one of my main needs as I am the gender and community development officer in BIRDP and usually my focus is on the interventions / activities that are environmentally sound and gender equitable and that help in the organization, capacity building and empowerment of rural communities , regarding these activities in our follow up, evaluation and reporting the economical and tangible inputs ,outcomes and benefits were there ,calculated and clearly stated but only few words about the environmental and social ones which considered as the most important in community development.

    How to valuate the environmental and social inputs, outcomes/benefits? i. e the intangible . How to be added as values to see the full real picture of the intervention? These were the things that we didn’t know and never thought about before.

    At the first time when the training started we thought that it will be so difficult to valuate the intangible benefits and when the facilitators asked each participant to write down what she/he expected or want to be covered through SROI training I wrote on my yellow card ((how to enable rural communities to valuate their social benefits)), it seemed to me difficult at that time but after the training process we found it possible and interesting. Yes the valuation of the intangible benefits is challenging but it is not impossible – we did it –

    Now as BIRDP we have our business plan to make use of SROI method in developing our field work and reports.

    Much thanks to you Elaine and to our inspiring facilitators Mr. Fons & Mr. Pole from Context International

    Best regards to all my colleagues in Sudan and special regards to our brothers from Yemen

    Aida Adam Osman
    Gender & Community Development Officer
    Butana Development Agency – BIRDP

     
  4. aidaadam said:
  5. SROI method is really wonderful

    My pleasure that I had the opportunity to participate in the SROI training workshop which strongly hit and met one of my main needs as I am the gender and community development officer in BIRDP and usually my focus is on the interventions / activities that are environmentally sound and gender equitable and that help in the organization, capacity building and empowerment of rural communities , regarding these activities in our follow up, evaluation and reporting the economical and tangible inputs ,outcomes and benefits were there ,calculated and clearly stated but only few words about the environmental and social ones which considered as the most important in community development.

    How to valuate the environmental and social inputs, outcomes/benefits? i. e the intangible . How to be added as values to see the full real picture of the intervention? These were the things that we didn’t know and never thought about before.

    At the first time when the training started we thought that it will be so difficult to valuate the intangible benefits and when the facilitators asked each participant to write down what she/he expected or want to be covered through SROI training I wrote on my yellow card ((how to enable rural communities to valuate their social benefits)), it seemed to me difficult at that time but after the training process we found it possible and interesting. Yes the valuation of the intangible benefits is challenging but it is not impossible – we did it –

    Now as BIRDP we have our business plan to make use of SROI method in developing our field work and reports.

    Much thanks to you Elaine and to our inspiring facilitators Mr. Fons & Mr. Pole from Context International

    Best regards to all my colleagues in Sudan and special regards to our brothers from Yemen

    Aida Adam Osman
    Gender & Community Development Officer
    Butana Development Agency – BIRDP

     
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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.  
  8. As admitted , nearly by all participants, this SROI training workshop is a real turn point in my life as rural development practioner, for instance ,by bringing my views and perspectives close to the communities as well as exposing my self to a new methodology in which the previously neglected matters(things that have no market value/price) in the development paths became valuable. . Moreover, getting skills on how to practice SROI surely will help in deep analysis of the context particularly in case of women who are the sole actors in the social facet that underlies development, for instance , in the field exercise which is pertained to construction of water source (hafir) , the communities women were behind fetching and collecting drinking water as well taking a long distant trip with clothes over heads to find water for washing . Thus , by giving value to these matters , this SROI I think could help in fund raising to alleviate burden on rural women . Moreover, the women of the visited communities have described their situation after provision of water by saying " By hafir construction the controversy /differences with husbands were iron out and our mood became mild"
    By the way in our project which is funded by IFAD (Butana Project) more than 90% of the 140 targeted communities have indicated drinking water as a first priority and the project is required to help in addressing it before any other interventions.
    At the end of this training as participants from BIRDP(3 persons)we came out with an action plan to apply what we learned in the workshop. The first assignment/activity is to train others followed by applicable field work to inform and enrich the Project Annual Report for the year 2012.
    Best Regards
    Mohammed ELhassan Ali
    Natural Resource Management (NRM) Officer
    Butana Integrated Rural Development Project (BIRDP)
    Sudan
    +249 927035144

     
  9. hassan said:
  10. thanks to all, for availing me to participate on the training workshop ,that was held in Elobeid in 20 of January about SROI.It was really unique event in so many dimensions,first it was organized in Kordofan which it characterized by very friendly,helpful and peaceful people.second the participation of our brothers from Yemen,really they are adding value and flavor to the workshop.third was Fons and Paul with whom actually we spent very fruitful days that enable us to digest all the SROI manual contents and all its technicalities,really they were the best facilitators i have met ,thanks to them with no limitations.fourth you Eline because you are the initiator and creator of this training and you are behind success of this event.finally all participants for their active participation and full involvement during the group discussion and field day .especial thanks to WSRMP coordinator and his staff without their efforts and aids this event would not end on this agreed highly satisfaction of all the participants.lastly my warm greetings to you all and i hope that you enjoy nice work and life.
    Hassan Mohamed Ahmed
    Central Coordination Unit for IFAD Funded Projects