Measuring social impact

October 14, 2016

Understanding what tenants experience as the real value of wellbeing projects to their lives is the goal of a new reporting methodology implemented by Foundation Housing.  The Tenant Wellbeing Team is using a methodology called Most Significant Change (MSC) which sees a team of tenants trained to interview other tenants after a project has been completed and ask four important questions; What was it like before the project? What changed?  What is life like now? Why is this significant to you?

Foundation Housing’s Impact and Innovation specialist, Tom Tolchard, says that the MSC methodology enables the organisation to tell a story that’s currently missed. “Organisational KPIs are important, wellbeing KPIs are important, but Most Significant Change is often where the ‘magic happens’ and it’s stuff we weren’t recording.  It’s about understanding the significance of changes for tenants, ” Tom said.

Training tenants rather than staff to interview people using the MSC framework ensures that the responses are more likely to be authentic and honest.

“We are not in the business of harvesting good news stories,” says Tom,  “If there’s something that we’ve tried and it didn’t work, or there was a terrible thing that happened on the back of it that was unintended – that’s great knowledge.”

Foundation Housing are among a small number of organisations adopting the additional reporting method. Lotterywest have implemented Most Significant Change reporting to assess the social value of their grants and prove their worth to the recipient communities.

Foundation Housing tenant Peter was one of the participants in the training workshop for the Social Impact Team.  Peter lives at a complex in Victoria Park where a place making project has seen a number of small but important changes made.  These changes have included an improved patio area and building custom made wooden structures for each that tenant  that serve as a storage box, outdoor seat and planter box. Tenants participated in making each improvement.  Tenants also identified changes they would like to see made to improve the safety and security of their complex, which Foundation Housing then implemented.  Peter interviewed some of his fellow tenants and found that the greatest change was the pleasure tenants gained from the extra external space and privacy to each unit’s entrance the ‘boxes’ provided.    Other changes at the place making site captured through the MSC process included that some tenants were connecting with community initiatives like Community Watch and some were also inviting family members to visit for the first time in many years because they had greater pride in their homes.

Some negative feedback has been that the outdoor patio area, while a good idea, lacks enough shade to make it useable.

Tom says there are plans to do more MSC training for tenants and staff and for it to be embedded along with other standard wellbeing measures such as those outlined by the Deakin Centre for Wellbeing, in all Foundation Housing tenant wellbeing projects. “It captures the significance of the change, it’s not limited to the economic impact of that change.”