The importance of impact measurement in social innovation
The European Social Innovation Competition 2019 moved into its second phase after the announcement of this year’s 30 Semi-Finalists. Alongside this the 2019 Impact Prize is also open for applicants until 16th August. The Impact Prize is worth €50,000 and is open to all Semi-Finalists, Finalists and Winners from the previous year’s edition of Competition. The idea of this prize is to recognise the project that has had the most significant social impact across the past 12 months.
With many challenge prizes ending after the prize money has been awarded, innovators often have to find other forms of funding and support, however this post-prize award is a way to ensure that innovations supported by the competition can go on to be implemented and scaled, whilst achieving social impact.
Impact is viewed in many different ways, with numerous methodologies and approaches as to how to conduct impact measurement. At Nesta Challenges, social impact is implicit in the impact we want to achieve, as we seek to create it through three strands:
- Breakthrough innovations – ensuring the solutions supported through the prize or competition are effective
- Cultivate innovators – innovators with the unique potential to solve a problem are incentivised to do so
- Systemic change – we are able to shape context by raising awareness, inform policy and shape the future of markets and technologies
Innovators and Impact
For innovators, it is important to think through the different levels at which you are creating impact, this can be done through the three levels of innovation, capabilities and ecosystem.
- Innovation captures the long term results or changes in people and their behaviours due to the innovative solutions
- Capabilities captures the long term results or changes that affect people’s knowledge and skills
- Ecosystem captures the long term results or changes in the market, in policy and in people’s opinions
Measuring impact through these categories allows innovators to create a narrative or story around themselves and their solutions in achieving impact, as the impact categories build upon one another.
Mouse4all who were part of the 2017 edition of the European Union Social Innovation Competition: Equality Rebooted, won the Impact Prize in 2018. They are based in Madrid, Spain and created an app that allows people with a physical disability who have difficulty using a touchscreen to use digital products like tablets or smartphones. Mouse4all highlighted that “impact is a word which resonates deeply” for them as they are determined to positively impact their users’ lives.
They found our framework for impact useful and practical for assessing their activities and the processes to achieve their goals, in terms of social impact and economic sustainability. It allowed them to think strategically about scaling as they are now seeking to expand their distribution network internationally, realising the unique social impact they can have on people who cannot use mass market technological products.
“It has helped us rethink our way of conducting business. In a social project or company, a key concern is how to make it sustainable. No matter how powerful your social impact is, if you disappear it will no longer have a positive impact. Every step of the way (activities and processes) has to contribute to scaling up the project”
“We are especially proud of having received this recognition, as the Impact Prize requires demonstrating a real impact achieved in a short timeframe. […] To be recognized by the jury as the project that has achieved the most significant social impact over the past 12 months is a huge satisfaction for a small startup company such as Mouse4all.”
Mouse4all recognised how important the prize was as it provided high level visibility and worldwide recognition to bring their solution to more countries and users, as well as gaining funding to further develop and scale their product.
The Impact Prize 2019 deadline is fast approaching with the closing date on 16th August, this is an opportunity for the European Social Innovation’s 2018 Semi-Finalists to gain significant understanding in assessing and achieving impact in their innovations being produced to benefit people and society across the European Union as well as access €50,000 in available funding.
The European Social Innovation Competition, launched in memory of Diogo Vasconcelos, is a competition run by the European Commission, now in its seventh year. The competition is open to applicants from EU member states and countries associated to Horizon 2020. The competition is delivered by a consortium of partners including Nesta, Kennisland, Ashoka,ENoLL and Scholz & Friends.