Consultant Anna Crabb (fourth from left) with representatives from the Gresik Regional Government and Singosari community residents in Indonesia.
On a recent trip to Indonesia with the University of South Australia, I got to see firsthand the potential of Social Return on Investment (SROI) to do more than just measure impact.
I was invited on the trip by UniSA Professor Bruce Gurd, who is undertaking research to push the boundaries of SROI. The focus of this visit was to scope the creation of a tool that would apply the SROI principles to decision-making on public works and sanitation projects in Indonesia.
Traditionally, these infrastructure projects have been assessed based on their outputs; how many homes get connected, for example, rather than the broader impact (such as having access to clean water) the projects will have on a community.
We spent time with a range of people who will be involved in the SROI project, from two local universities, and from the local government in Gresik who are responsible for implementing important public works projects. It was wonderful to see how engaged members from across the environment, health and infrastructure departments were in learning about SROI and planning how it can be applied to their work.
Though early days still, as those we were with began to learn about the SROI approach, it was clear to see that using SROI will enable the Gresik infrastructure planners to systematically take into account a broader range of factors in their decisions about how and where to spend their international aid funding – and ultimately improve the impact on the community.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are helping to fund the UniSA research, in the hope it will assist them to allocate their aid dollars more effectively; on the projects with the greatest impact.
In this way the use of SROI goes beyond simply measuring what has happened in the past. By helping decision makers understand the impactof the projects they support in a new way, they can then make choices that will enable greatest impact; or put more simply, change more lives for the better.
It’s exciting to be a part of.