Social Value Appraisal: Cutting the Gordian knot

Social Value Appraisal: Cutting the Gordian knot
Irene Ciccarino | Susana Rodrigues | Jorge Da Silva

Best Paper Award 2021 / ESCP-8EMES-1-2021


Social enterprises, cooperatives, and voluntary organizations are compelled to gauge and disclosure their results highlighting their impact on society. Social value is the social entrepreneurial initiatives (SEI) outcome, but it is also intrinsic to social activity. Through social value measures, it is possible to highlight prioritization choices that influence the way value is created. Hence, it is possible to establish progress against goals from a holistic standpoint. The social entrepreneurship literature does not offer widely acceptable recommendations on how to measure and report SEIs’ results. Examining the theory of value in the strategy field offers useful insights in line with the multidisciplinary approach defended by some social entrepreneurship authors. However, it is not enough because SEIs use economic goals to make social goals feasible, have different opportunity sources and distinct resource mobilization practices. In order to cut the Gordian knot, this paper aims to pose a consolidation path for the research field relying on multidisciplinary and reliable scales developed through a mixed-methods design. Three composed measures are discussed: 1) subjective social value represented by pain and relief scales; 2) objective social value represented by the number of beneficiaries and jobs created; 3) SEI’s uniqueness represented by the extent to which SEI activity can be replaced by other social structures. According to these measures, 81.8% of the sample address severe social pain and 92% of cases produce an intense feeling of relief. They also deal with social problems that would not find treatment in other structures. Regarding the effectiveness of the value created, only 24% of SEIs that work with severe pain do not create the necessary relief, and none of the 16 SEIs that work with less serious social problems fails to produce it. Thus, the measures serve as parameters to assess the effectiveness of SEIs.

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