Social entrepreneurship and the third sector at large have gained a considerable momentum over the past two decades. Stemming from private initiatives, this phenomenon found a positive echo in the public sphere through the political reforms enthused by new public management and their attempt to inject market-inspired mechanisms into public administration. Social enterprises are therefore progressively being recommended as a key lever for governments to focus on in the currently challenging economic context (European Commission and OECD 2013; Hulgård 2011).
This enthusiasm for social enterprises and the development of impact investing has also led to an increasing focus on impact measurement. This trend has first emerged among private actors, eager to prove and manage their impact. While the field of impact measurement has been accelerating in the past few years, a growing number of specialised organisations have emerged (e.g. B Lab, Social Asset Measurements or Sinzer), as well an ever-expanding list of methodologies for social impact measurement.
Public stakeholders have also picked up this infatuation for impact measurement, which happens to be a well-fitted feature for the performance-driven new public management frameworks. In this context, we observe an increasing number of attempts to make social impact measurement part of regulatory frameworks aiming to favour the third sector for the provision of social services (e.g. in 2014 the G8’s Social Impact Investment Taskforce or the European Commission’s Social Impact Measurement Sub-group).