4 July 2018

Recent Canadian Initiatives

Summary: Over the past 15 years, several initiatives related to social impact measurement and evaluation have been developed in Canada. On this page, we introduce the experiences of the Demonstrating Value, Co-operative Difference and Co-operative Performance Indicators projects, as well as the approaches of Social Value Canada, the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN), the Ontario government, TIESS, the S4ES (Mission. Model. Measure.) consortium and the Common Approach Project.

In 2007, the Demonstrating Value (DV) project was launched in British Columbia. It was a joint initiative of the Vancity Community Foundation (a foundation linked to Vancity Credit Union, a local credit union) and the federal government (specifically the department then known as HRSDC, Human Resources and Social Development Canada). The objective of the project was to develop a framework to evaluate the performance and impacts of social enterprises (Demonstrating Value, 2007, p. 13). This process was preceded in 2006 by the production and publication of a literature review (Armstrong, 2006a) and a report resulting from a series of interviews on the subject (Armstrong, 2006b). The DV process continued beyond 2009, with the production of new activities and content. In 2013, the Demonstrating Value Resource Society was established to take the work of the initial project further. The Demonstrating Value website can still be consulted and is sporadically updated thanks to the continuous work of Bryn Sadownik.

In 2010, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) awarded $1 million to a series of research projects on Canada’s cooperative sector under the name Co-operative Difference. Led by the Canadian Co-operative Association in partnership with four Canadian universities, the research network was funded to conduct research on the social, economic and environmental impacts of cooperatives. The results were gradually made public through a website and, more importantly, with the publication in 2015 of a book compiling numerous tools, experiences and reflections related to the subject (Brown et al., 2015). Since 2016, the Centre of Excellence in Accounting and Reporting for Co-operatives (CEARC), affiliated with Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, has been pursuing this research with a project entitled Cooperative Performance Indicators. In 2020, the project is still active and in a pilot phase.

By 2011, the SROI Canada network, whose mission is to facilitate the use of the Social Return on Investment (SROI) methodology, was set up by Stephanie Robertson of SiMPACT Strategy Group. In late 2014, the international SROI network and the Social Impact Analysts Association (SIAA) merged to form Social Value International. The SROI Canada Network is the Canadian chapter of this movement and became, around 2017, Social Value Canada. The organization’s mission has been broadened and consists of facilitating the use of several impact measurement approaches, albeit always based on the seven core principles of the SROI methodology.

Between 2015 and 2017, the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) conducted a project on the theme of evaluation for nonprofit organizations that resulted in the publication of several very useful resources that are still available on their website. This blog post shares some of the highlights and lessons learned during the project.

Beginning in 2016, the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDG at the time), as part of its 2016–2021 social enterprise strategy, funded a literature review on the theme of impact measurement, written by the Mowat Centre in 2016 (Lalande et al., 2016), and then set up a working group that contributed to the publication of a report in 2017 written by KPMG (KPMG, 2017). The direct impact of this approach is unclear, but the organizations that were involved seem to have, since 2019, redirected their efforts toward the Common Approach Project, described below.

In 2016, the TIESS launched its own project on the theme of evaluation and impact measurement in the social economy. It is within this framework that the web portal you are currently consulting has been developed. The first phase of the project culminated in the organization of an International Forum on Social Impact Measurement and Evaluation on April 9, 2019 and the publication of the Montreal Declaration on the same issues. In 2020, this project is still active and the content of the portal has been translated to English thanks to funding from the federal government.

In 2018, a consortium of organizations related to community development, social entrepreneurship and the social economy, grouped under the banner of S4ES, received funding from the Government of Canada and the McConnell Foundation to carry out various social innovation projects. The social impact measurement component of this project was coordinated by the Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNet) and the Scottish consulting group Social Value Lab. As part of this work, CCEDNet facilitates a community of practice on impact measurement that meets virtually about four times a year. The main achievement of the project was the launch of the Mission. Model. Measure. online platform in 2019, which aims to inform social enterprises about social impact measurement. The website supports social entrepreneurs step by step through all the relevant stages of the process, from clarifying the mission to communicating and improving impact, planning the approach, identifying relevant indicators and collecting data. The Resources section also lists hundreds of relevant guides, documents and websites.

As of 2019, the main Canadian initiative for measuring the social impact of social purpose organizations is the Common Approach Project (CAP). This is a two-year project that aims to design a new type of impact measurement standard that balances the need for standardization expressed by various funders with the need for flexibility experienced by social enterprises or social economy enterprises that collect data on their impact.

This project is led by Kate Ruff of the Carleton Centre for Community Innovation (3ci) and is funded primarily by Employment and Social Development Canada (EDSC) and the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. The main partners in the project are the Centre for Social Services Engineering at the University of Toronto, the Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNet), the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), Pillar Nonprofit Network and the Social Resources Development Corporation of Canada (SRDC), with key contributions from SAMETRICA, Nourishing Communities, the Centre for Social Enterprise Development, the Ontario Nonprofit Network, the Paro Centre for Women’s Enterprise and the University of Waterloo’s Canadian Index of Wellbeing.

In 2020, this project is still ongoing. To learn more about the key elements of this process and the next developments, please visit their website.