Entrepreneurship: Making An Impact Through Social Value
Matt Haworth, the co-founder of Impact Reporting, a bespoke social impact reporting tool, discusses how he developed a business which uses technology to improve social value reporting, by reinvesting the profits from Reason Digital, a digital social enterprise, he also co-owns.
Matt is a man on a mission. Both of his tech companies use digital to do good and only work on projects that ‘have a positive social impact on people and improve lives.’
Impact Reporting, now valued at £2million, is the brainchild of Matt and Ed Cox, the co-founders of Reason Digital. After working with public sector organisations and charities for nine years they realised there was a gap in the market for a holistic social value reporting system.
Matt says: “Back in 2013 we were working with the BBC on their first Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report as part of a project at Reason Digital. This proved to be really disjointed, as numerous departments were all feeding in their social value data. It was very inefficient, and we soon realised it would be so much simpler to analyse and understand if there was one central portal.
“I tasked our developers with creating a single real time dashboard which centralised all data. Our researchers, Ian Jukes and Dr Paul Joyce, were employed to investigate how companies measured social value, to gain a picture of the national landscape.
“They both interviewed over 20 heads of marketing & CSR managers at across several sectors and developed a detailed CSR report, which included measurements and an analysis of how the reports should look. They fed back that most companies found sporadic data confusing and there was a need to have a system which brought all data together in one place. They also established there was a need for live reports rather than annual papers.”
The business began to grow after the team partnered with The University of Manchester and they realised how ground-breaking the idea was. After an initial investment of £117k from Innovate UK, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government, and the University, Impact’s developers could then fund building the system and employ two members of staff to research CSR across various organisations.
Calculating social value
Impact’s initial plan was to develop a credible framework for measuring social value. However, research uncovered a series of existing methodologies that performed this role.
Matt says: “Several frameworks already existed, so rather than provide another alternative to a problem that had already been solved, we decided to pivot, and instead focus on technology by providing a ‘framework agnostic’ tool.
“By creating a tool which was useable by all types of organisations, regardless of their preferred reporting framework, or method for valuation, we were able to help more clients, from a range of sectors, with a range of existing CSR skill sets.
“Rather than only working with businesses who wanted to monetise their social good or force all organisations to adopt a specific reporting framework, we were keen to empower and facilitate all organisations in their quest to have a positive social impact, no matter which methodology suited their objectives best.”
The design & build
Impact’s first clients – One Manchester, a housing and community services provider and The University of Manchester – helped shape the tool and it was modified according to their needs.
Matt says: “Impact was co-designed with The University of Manchester. They required an online system which captured all the great work their staff were undertaking as part of their social responsibility initiative – ‘10,000 actions.’ This is the largest sustainability initiative for staff within higher education, involving over 10,000+ employees.
“The University needed a tool that allowed users to quickly log socially impactful tasks and exist alongside contextual information about how and why these actions were important.
“Their requirements meant we developed some ‘gamification’ features – little tricks to further encourage and motivate staff to get involved and maximise the University’s positive social and environmental impact.”
Impact has a clear introductory process for new clients. They are welcomed onboard by a team of social value strategists, who work with companies to understand set objectives. The team then run client workshops and discuss CSR, marketing and finance. Social and environmental goals are defined, and activities are mapped out.
With this information, the Impact team can set about constructing an organisation’s personalised set-up of the tool and providing expertise and guidance on CSR best practice and reporting.
The team trains clients to facilitate data capture and provides the digital and conceptual tools they need to be independently successful in the CSR space.
Reaching the right goals
Among other frameworks, Impact is aligned to and supports the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 17 global goals set by the UN in 2015. These are a blueprint to achieve a more sustainable future and address global challenges related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice.
Matt says: “Whilst we remain framework agnostic, we have decided to align elements of our product with the UN’s SDGs, given their worldwide and future-proofed applicability. We allow organisations to easily track and report on their great pro-social and pro-environmental activities according to which SDG or SDGs they contribute towards – to provide structure and help employees understand the greater goals they are helping to achieve.
“We even have plans to build a feature that automatically recognises which SDG an activity belongs to and assign it accordingly.”
The business today
Impact Reporting exists to record and analyse the value of an organisation’s social value efforts. In 2018 it measured an impact of over £50 million for clients spanning law, construction, transport services and housing providers. As a CSR and sustainability reporting tool, it streamlines the way businesses can capture and monitor processes or organisational activity that has a social or environmental benefit.
Impact’s client roster now includes Network Rail, Manchester Airport Group, DWF, the global law firm, Places for People and Regenda Group, national housing organisations and The British Library and the business plans to continue to work with a range of clients across multiple sectors that capture CSR.