Supporting community businesses to better measure their impact

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Community businesses are confident in the impact they are having in their local area, but they need further support in order to evidence it.
31 May, 2023
Chloe Nelson

Chloe Nelson

Head of Impact & Learning

Our evidence shows that community businesses make a big difference to local areas and the people who live there. This is clear from our 2022 Community Business Market Report, in which 97% of community businesses said that they make a positive impact on the inclusion, health and wellbeing of local people, and the pride, cohesion and empowerment of the wider community.

Despite being confident about their impact on people, places and planet, within this same survey community businesses were asked about what support they would find most beneficial, and measuring impact was the most frequently selected out of 18 options. In total, 52% of respondents selected this option as one of their top five areas that they needed support with, a higher number than any other category. This is not a one-off; it is clear that community businesses are confident in the impact they are having on their local areas, but need further support in order to evidence it.

It is also clear, therefore, that we have more work to do in supporting community businesses to articulate, measure, and learn from their impact. With all this in mind, we commissioned MB Associates to speak to community businesses to better understand what support community businesses need. This blog shares the findings from this research.

Jael Williams from MB Associates shares the benefits of measuring impact, the challenges, and recommendations for the wider sector.

Jael Williams

Jael Williams

MB Associates

Community businesses told us that lack of time, money and skills prevented them from measuring their impact. This is particularly true for community businesses run by volunteers.

Many community businesses focus on numbers and outputs (such as number of workshops run), because, this is often easiest and most in demand from funders. However, community businesses most want to tell the stories of their organisations, communities, and people they work with. Any impact measurement tools must be simple, accessible, robust and help community businesses tell a compelling story of change.

“We want to tell more stories, perhaps support community journalism and have creative communications.”

Disability Lambeth

How can we better support community businesses to measure their impact?

Through our research, we identified several ways that Power to Change and other organisations can support community businesses to measure their impact. This includes:

  • Designating pots of funding for external evaluation support
  • Sharing examples of good impact management measurement through focused marketing and communications campaigns
  • Providing a clear and accessible bank of existing resources
  • Co-creating a community business specific impact measurement resources

We are exploring these recommendations in the second phase of the research, by engaging with nine community businesses across three half-day workshops to understand what impact measurement resources would work for them.

We will be publishing a second report later this year that provides impact measurement tools specific to community businesses, and recommendations about how these tools could be enhanced.