I started to be interested in Monitoring & Evaluation M&E as consultant in Sustainability and social value creation at DuPont Sustainable Solutions. Working with multinationals in the extractive industries, I advised on the social risk management in large infrastructure capital projects and operations. In this sector, local communities are negatively impacted by the construction and operations – proactive management of the social impact and value creation requires early planning, rigorous monitoring and evaluation of those negative impacts while at the same time, revealing the social value created on short and long term basis, distinguishing between output, outcomes and impact. Sadly enough, not many companies were interested in employing a proactive thorough process for monitoring and evaluation.
We have adopted and successfully applied the Social Return of Investment (SROI) approach as a mean to make explicit the value creation, in a quantitative way, easy to understand for a broad range of stakeholders. I found that stakeholders consultation is paramount - the stakeholders collective input provided the necessary inputs to define the project elements and the M&E steps. Consultation revealed their needs and expectations and helped the projects to articulate ‘what’s in it for them’ to minimize the inevitable resistance.
The seven steps in SROI approach are the logical evolution from inputs to impacts, applying the theory of change and using financial proxies, to understand the effects on stakeholders. The attribution process is a critical step: the challenge is to understand well the contextual factors and to isolate the program impact. In my experience, the attribution process involved a lot of subjective interpretations, therefore, transparency and again, consultation is paramount, to obtain buy-in from stakeholders. Last but not least, independent assurance is a necessary step to improve acceptance of results and inform the next steps.