Applying an equality and equity lens to measuring social impact outcomes

Social inequalities were a dominant concern in 2020, as a result of Covid-19 and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. These events led to overdue conversations around how we address systemic injustice. At Big Society Capital we have put these discussions front and centre, looking at how we can contribute to greater equality. A previous blog post lays out the foundation of this thinking across the organisation, addressing inequality from different angles. Within these approaches, embedding an equality and equity lens across how we manage and measure impact, is key. We are therefore happy to share that after months of hard work we have finally launched our revised Outcomes Matrix.

Published

Written by

Mwansa Phiri, Social Impact Manager

The Outcomes Matrix was first developed in partnership with New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), Social Value UK, Investing for Good and Outcomes Star, and is hosted by Good Finance. It has been an important practical impact management and measurement tool within the social impact investment sector. The tool has helped more than 40,000+ Good Finance users to plan and measure their social impact. With this redesign, we aim to embed an equality and equity lens in the way organisations measure outcomes. Ensuring that reducing inequality is at the forefront of conversations, when organisations are managing and measuring impact. This is also in line with the recommendations outlined in EIIP’s report ‘Equality Impact Investing: From Principles to Practice.’

In this blog post we explore how we went about the redesign process, the three key changes we have made and why.

Ensuring a collaborative process throughout

We recognise we do not have all the answers and therefore place a high importance on working with others to achieve our goals. When updating the Outcomes Matrix, we took steps to ensure the redesign process was as collaborative as possible. We convened a panel of individuals with specialist knowledge in equalities impact measurement and a strong understanding of the charity, social enterprise, and social investment sectors. Special thanks to Bonnie Chiu, from The Social Investment Consultancy; Chloe Tye, from Big Issue Invest; Ishita Ranjan, from Good Finance; and Ceri Goddard and Rana Zincir Celal, from the Equality Impact Investing Project. This panel provided guidance and insight to the process and proposed changes. Alongside the panel, 140+ Good Finance users provided their feedback on the design, usability, and usefulness of the Outcomes Matrix through website feedback and user insight focus groups.

Three key changes to the matrix

Changes to the matrix broadly focused on three key areas: language, outcomes, and service users.

An intentional use of language

Language was updated to reflect an equity lens when articulating outcomes and indicators. For example, switching from seeking ‘equal’ access to products, services, and opportunities to ‘equitable’ access to products, services and opportunities. We recognise the importance of this distinction.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission define equality as:

“Ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents.”

Equality is therefore about people receiving the same opportunities and support. Equity, on the other hand, recognises that there is not a level playing field. It is not about treating everyone the same, but supporting people based on their needs. In practice, this may mean providing higher levels of support and resources to some groups over others. By redesigning the Outcomes Matrix to champion equity, we aim to support organisations who wish to play their part in levelling the field.

An inclusive approach to outcomes

Within each outcome area, it is important to recognise that certain groups face barriers to access and experience higher levels of inequality than others. Whilst it is not possible to include a full set of indicators for every group, we inserted example indicators to illustrate the need to focus on particular service user groups across the different outcome areas. For example, the citizenship and community outcome area now includes access to justice indicators for refugees, asylum seekers and other migrant communities. This reflects the reality that members of this community face specific and unique challenges in this area. This is in line with the overall goal of the Outcomes Matrix to be an illustrative rather than prescriptive tool. Providing organisations with enough information and guidance to adapt it for their own purposes. More information on this can be found in the Outcomes Matrix guidance document.

An expanded view of service users

Another key change we have made is the consideration of service users and how organisations identify and categorise them. The Outcome Matrix no longer refers to ‘beneficiary groups’ and now talks about service users instead. Referring to people as beneficiaries can be disempowering and reinforce an imbalanced power dynamic between funders, organisations and service users. The list of service user groups was also expanded, including more groups and sub-categories for additional detail as needed. Alongside identifying service users who are at high risk of harm, disadvantage and discrimination, we introduced additional components of analysis: protected characteristics (referring to the Equality Act 2010), socioeconomic group, and geography. It is important for organisations to consider how service users may be experiencing intersectional or multiple discrimination and disadvantage. This is because it can influence the outcomes that individuals and groups can achieve. The redesigned matrix provides space to do this.

We hope the new Outcomes Matrix successfully embeds an equality and equity lens when managing and measuring impact, as well as improves user experience. We are excited for you to try it out and welcome any feedback. If you have any questions or thoughts get in touch by emailing mphiri@bigsocietycapital.com and aconstable@goodfinance.org.uk.

"Since its inception, the BSC Outcomes Matrix has been very influential in ensuring that the social investment sector prioritises social impact. Given what we have learnt in the past year with the Covid-19 crisis, it is clear that the sector needs to do more to reduce inequalities. Therefore, it is timely to have the new iteration of the BSC Outcomes Matrix, which puts equity and inclusion at the centre of its development. We already see similar developments in the philanthropy sector, such as the DEI Data Standards, and we look forward to the BSC Outcomes Matrix help to advance the social investment sector in the inclusion agenda."

Bonnie Chiu, Managing Director, The Social Investment Consultancy

“Embedding equity and inclusion into impact measurement and management is key if we want to genuinely identify which outcomes have the most impact on different communities and to help us understand the approaches that work best, particularly for those who have been the most marginalised and excluded from mainstream services and institutions. This revised Outcomes Matrix is a great starting point for recognising and addressing these inequalities within our system.”

Chloe Tye, Impact and Equalities Specialist, Big Issue Invest

The Outcomes Matrix

The Outcomes Matrix is a practical tool to help social impact organisations plan and measure their social impact in terms of outcomes. 

The tool includes outcomes and measures for nine different outcome areas and four lenses for considering the service users of your organisation. 

The Outcomes Matrix is a useful tool to:

  • Gain a starting point for planning and measuring your social impact outcomes 
  • Communicating your impact to social investors and key stakeholders
  • Thinking about future areas of development for your organisation should provide a helpful starting point for organisations to measure their social impact.