Context and rationale for the work of TIESS and its partners
This work arose from a desire expressed by several social economy networks to be evaluated on bases that match their needs and expectations and that they can participate in defining, to highlight their ways of doing things, in short to define themselves before getting defined by others.
Introductory video on measuring social impact (5 min)
Video on the challenges and opportunities of evaluation and social impact measurement (5 min)
Conference on the origins and implications of the interest in the concept of social impact and its measurement (20 min)
To better understand these issues, read this blog (5 min reading, in French).
In this context, TIESS and its partners have been working for three years on evaluation and impact measurement in the social economy. Actors of the social economy will find on this web portal all the tools produced so far to:
1. Facilitate the understanding by social economy actors of the world of evaluation and measurement of the social impact of collective enterprises and its stakes.
2. Support reflection by social economy enterprises and networks to facilitate their orientation within this world and thus support them towards :
a common understanding of evaluation within the social economy.
informed positioning and decision-making with respect to evaluation approaches and issues, based on their missions, activities, needs and ways of doing things.
In this context, 6 organisations (Chantier de l’économie sociale, Conseil québécois de la coopération et de la mutualité – CQCM, Comité sectoriel de main-d’œuvre de l’économie sociale et de l’action communautaire – CSMO-ESAC, Collectif des entreprises d’insertion du Québec – CEIQ, Conseil québécois du loisir – CQL, Territoires innovants en économie sociale et solidaire – TIESS) and 3 researchers from CRISES and Philab (Sylvain A. Lefèvre, Maude Léonard and Marie J. Bouchard, scientific director of the projet) decided to publish the Montreal Declaration on social impact measurement and evaluation. This Declaration was co-written by these actors, but it aims to involve as many social economy networks, funders, evaluation experts and researchers as possible.
Why this Declaration?
Evaluation consists of making a series of choices (What am I evaluating? Why? For whom? How? etc.). It is essential that the actors being evaluated participate in making these choices with a clear understanding of the various options available to them. It is this understanding that TIESS has sought to improve through a work of co-construction and knowledge transfer aimed at the social economy in all its diversity, but also in all its unity.
The first questions one is tempted to ask when approaching evaluation and social impact measurement are not necessarily the most important, or at least the first ones that should be answered. The field can seem complex and we are quickly tempted to seek outside support to accompany us. This is quite legitimate. There are, however, certain questions the organisations potentially being evaluated should address first with their governance bodies and staff. These questions are relatively simple, but raise the most important issues.
Behind this question lies another bigger one: what is valuable? Is it our processes and ways of doing things? Our modes of democratic governance, the reinvestment of financial surpluses into the mission, our territorial anchoring, the quality of our goods and services, etc. Or only our measurable results? The number of recipients of a program, for example.
Based on the results of the evaluation, who decides what portion of our actions deserve to be pursued, promoted and financed? What needs to change? What constitutes an improvement? A foundation that funds us? The government? Traditional private investors?
On what basis are these choices made? Who participates in defining these bases?
Do we want to leave this to large groups of private consultants who develop universally applicable methods and translate social impact into dollar figures? Or do we think that we should take part in defining this evaluation framework in a co-construction and negotiation dynamic?
These choices are at the heart of evaluation and the measurement of social impact. They are not self-evident. And because the answers we provide to these questions have a great influence on the future of our organizations (their mission, their way of working, their decision-making process, etc.) and, by extension, the communities they serve, it is essential that we, as actors in the social economy, take part in the definition of this evaluative framework in a dynamic of co-construction and negotiation.
Ultimately, evaluation feeds into decision-making that then guides our actions and, by extension, helps define who we are. We are therefore facing a major challenge. To define ourselves before getting defined by others.
Actors in the social economy must PARTICIPATE IN DEFINING the terms of this evaluation and make it their own so that it :
meet THEIR needs;
enable them to better UNDERSTAND and IMPROVE their practices and processes and generate more “impact”;
is COHERENT with their PROJECT (their objectives and identity) and does not risk distancing them from it.
Thus, as is often the case, behind a world that may seem very complex, lie the same big political questions that are so simple and yet so important:
Who decides and on what basis? In other words, how is power organized and exercised?
For decades, the social economy has been forging a democratic and solidarity-based response to these major questions. It is essential that it does not allow itself to be blinded by miraculous methods or universal indicators that will help define what it should be or what it should become. These choices belong to us, let’s say it loud and clear.
Evaluation must be USEFUL to our organizations, PARTICIPATIVE and focused as much as possible on LEARNING (although it is also important to communicate the value of our work to others). Financial actors, although they must take part in the debate, should not dictate alone what is evaluated and how it is done. Evaluation approaches should not be overly standardized and uniform. Evaluation must be ADAPTED to what we do and the context in which we act.
This is the essence of this Declaration, and we hope that you will adhere to it in large numbers.