Social Return on Investment: Merging Policy Evaluation Techniques for a Broader Vision of Success
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The purpose of many social programs is to facilitate sustainable change in the lives of individuals and communities. Unfortunately, the techniques used to evaluate social programs often ignore some of the most important changes which take place in the life of a participant and focus more on the activities that have been performed. The purpose of this research is to explore the practical benefits of Social Return on Investment (SROI); an innovative framework for program evaluation. A case study of the Circle of Friends, in Kitchener, Ontario, illustrates some of the qualities of SROI. Beyond the fiscal benefits associated with preventing homelessness, such as decreased use of emergency medical services and decreased housing costs, beneficiaries report increased feelings of community safety and greater mental stability. The final report ensures that all stakeholders have a more complete picture of both the costs and the ‘real’ returns to investing in social programs.