The question that social enterprises often ponder is how well are they actually doing. How can they measure impact? How and where can they improve their products or services, and is their business scalable in any way? In a first step to offering such support to social entrepreneurs, the Siemens Stiftung has developed a tool to help assess the condition of a company or organization. The Self-Assessment Manual for Social Entrepreneurs (SAMforSE) is a compilation of questionnaires encompassing different areas of a social enterprise. With the options of downloading the document or answering online, users can apply the given criteria to receive an overall assessment of their business and benefit from the practical advice provided.
We talked to Beate Grotehans PhD, Senior Project Manager at the Siemens Stiftung, who designed and realized the project.
1. What kind of problems do social enterprises typically face?
In my daily work for Siemens Stiftung I noticed over time that social entrepreneurs are increasingly asking how their company or organization can create impact or scale. Impact is very important to them, but they are often uncertain as to how it can be generated.
The questions – how can I know if my company is doing well, or how do I identify my core strengths and build upon them strategically – are quite simple, but the answer depends on many factors.
I also noticed a buzz, which is steadily increasing, about tools for measuring the impact of social enterprises. This reflects a genuine need, since social entrepreneurs often lack the time and resources to deal with the complexities of standardized metrics for assessing social, economic, and environmental impact.
However, social entrepreneurs supported by Siemens Stiftung say that there are currently no readily usable tools for this purpose in the context of their businesses..
2. How did you set about developing a tool of this kind for social entrepreneurs?
At the outset, there were two aspects to be considered. First, I didn't want to reproduce the countless manuals that already exist, with long lists of points to be taken into account when setting up a social enterprise. Instead, the intention with SAMforSE was to offer a structured set of key questions for critical self-assessment by social entrepreneurs and perhaps, too, by their employees.
Second, it was evident that a tool for this purpose would have to be easy to use.
These were the requirements in developing SAMforSE as a tool specifically adapted to the needs of social entrepreneurs. Geared towards the ecosystem and business model of social enterprises, it offers a diagnostic instrument for social entrepreneurs looking for quick insights about, among other things, their organization’s value creation and social performance.
3. How did you define the eleven evaluation criteria and the corresponding questionnaires?
The eleven assessment fields correspond to the core areas of every business, with the addition of ethical and environmental aspects.
The tool is designed to help identify the strengths and successes of a social enterprise, but also to highlight areas where there is room for improvement when it comes to sustaining success over time.
SAMforSE highlights aspects and issues that are important to understand what “impact” means. These include questions such as: How do you mobilize own resources? How do you deal with external market constraints? How do you organize your business? What forms of support do you need (networks, business training, services)? What role do social, political, and economic networks play in your enterprise? What value chains are involved? How do you interact with government, national and local government? How do you measure your social impact? Are you equipped to meet the challenge of adaptation to social and economic changes? How do social enterprises correct market failures – when the “invisible hand” no longer functions?
4. How does the tool actually work?
SAMforSE focuses on specific insights and planning, rather than on general strategies, with the aim of determining whether the enterprise is growing or scaling in the right direction, or is achieving impact by improving the lives of customers.The tool is set up for online use, but a download is also available.
The social entrepreneur makes an honest assessment of his or her business or organization, based on the prompts in each evaluation area. For each prompt, you get three points for a “strong” response, two points for a “tracking” response, and one point for a “needs improvement” response. The points are recorded for each prompt in the “score” column on the right of the grid. At the end of each questionnaire, the results are added and the final number is put in the corresponding spot on the ranking scale. When you have completed all the individual questionnaires, your results are added up in the final, overall grid.
SAMforSE is offered in an English and a Spanish version.
5. The Manual also includes a help&support section. What does this offer?
Users may be satisfied with the results of the assessment. But for those who find there is room for improvement, the help&support section contains information about additional support, such as recommended tutorials, webinars, useful contacts and training opportunities.
In particular, with SAMforSE you can apply for a voucher for a personal, free-of-charge business coaching program, organized by Siemens Stiftung.
The program comprises a minimum of two days' training, conducted on-site at the business by a professional consultant, practical exercises with the help of a business training toolbox, and up to four bi-weekly coaching sessions either via phone/skype or at the consultant’s office.
SAMforSE can be accessed here: http://www.samforse.org/
A short film on SAMforSE can be found here:
SAMforSE Short Film in English