The Paradox of Social Impact Measurement
By Professor Pablo Munoz, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Director Centre for Entrepreneurship, University of Liverpool.
Regardless of the established limitations of rendering social phenomenon reliably knowable through measurement, the institutional excitement surrounding social impact is considered to rest upon the capacity to measure and assess its progress. To better understand how social impact can be reliably known, Pablo Munoz and his colleagues study how actors in a pre-rationalized industry understand social impact, and deal with the arrival of measures for social impact. Using survey and interview data collected from 70 Chilean respondents operating socially-oriented enterprises, the unravels the meanings entrepreneurs hold for social impact, its enactment and its measurement within their organizations. The findings suggest that the fundamental nature of impact and measurement differ, which is leading to tensions when trying to enact impact (and) measurement as a singular phenomenon. Impact is found to be an internal processing of self-realization and social or environmental healing qualia, whereas measurement is a process of reducing and representing the external world into qualities. The tensions betwixt impact and measurement surface as temporal, causal, and symbolic composites, which is theorized as a paradox of social impact measurement, between two particular forms of intelligibility: sentience and cognition. The results contribute to the literature in three key ways. First, by uncovering a novel paradox in socially-oriented organizations. Second, by illuminating one way in which emotions can inform and help achieve institutional work in socially-oriented organizations, and finally by offering an understanding of how to render social impact intelligible across different interventions responding to society’s grand challenges.
Pablo Munoz is a Professor in Entrepreneurship and Director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Liverpool Management School. His research examines how, why and with what consequences entrepreneurial individuals and communities address wicked problems and create societal and ecological value through business activities; with or without economic return. It focuses on three key areas: Sustainable/social entrepreneurship, Enterprise and local development, and Alternative forms of organising and value exchange.