Using SROI for a Social Impact Bond

Social Return on Investment (SROI) and Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) are two ideas that are increasingly mentioned in the same breath. SROI is a measurement and accounting framework and SIBs are a way to contract and finance a service. Both require three common ingredients:

  • the quantification of one or more social outcomes for beneficiaries,
  • a valuation of these outcomes, and
  • an estimation of the cost of delivering these outcomes.

While not a necessary ingredient, SROI can contribute to the design, operation and evaluation of SIBs.

*NB the word ‘outcome’ is used here to represent a change in someone’s life – some readers (particularly from the US) may use the word ‘impact’ to mean the same

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Will we see more randomised controlled trials in social program evaluation?

Randomised controlled trials are the preferred measurement method for the NSW social benefit bond (social impact bond) trials. The Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy published an overview and demonstration of rigorous-but-low-cost program evaluations in March 2012. The publication highlights the use of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with administrative data systems, providing a number of examples from existing studies. RCTs are widely considered best practice with respect to program evaluation.