Ben Carpenter—Global Value Exchange takes crowdsourcing to the next level

For more on how to track and share the value of your organization, visit The SROI Network’s Global Value Exchange online.

carpenter_250The Global Value Exchange (GVE) is an open source database that provides a free platform for information to be shared, enabling greater consistency and transparency in measuring social and environmental values. The site empowers users by giving them a voice to share their experiences, allowing them to become creators of knowledge.

We caught up with Ben Carpenter, Information Researcher and Coordinator for Social Accountability at The SROI Network, to find out how WINGS members and other organizations around the world can use the tool to track and share the value of their work.

WINGS: What is the Global Value Exchange?

Ben Carpenter: The GVE is a crowdsourced database of impact measurement information. It is a free online resource that consists of entry pages similar to Wikipedia. The entries are either stakeholders, outcomes, indicators or valuations. These entries are linked in various ways to show the relationships between them.

For example, a stakeholder may be linked to an outcome. This outcome can then be linked to an indicator (a way of measuring how much of the outcome has been achieved) and valuations (these valuations will be the value of the outcome for different stakeholders).

sroi_outcomes_550The Global Value Exchange was developed by The SROI Network to open up the debate on impact measurement. Outcomes, Indicators and Values are too often created (and used) without consultation with the beneficiaries. The GVE allows anyone to upload their own outcomes, indicators and values. It gives a voice to beneficiaries and allows them to be part of an important conversation that they have previously been excluded from. This philosophy of empowerment and increased accountability connects it to SROI which is a framework for accounting for social and environmental value. This framework has a methodology that also empowers stakeholders.

Users of the Global Value Exchange are rewarded for their contributions to the site with discounts on SROI products and services. The GVE relies on users adding and interacting with the information, so points are awarded for each interaction.

WINGS: Who can most benefit from the GVE?

BC: Many people will benefit from the GVE. Delivery organizations can benefit hugely from the GVE because it allows them to record the outcomes and indicators that are actually happening as a result of their interventions. These outcomes can be very bespoke and granular but this is the information that is useful at board room level. GVE also allows delivery organizations to understand the social value they are creating and therefore enables them to increase and maximise the value of their activities. The value of different outcomes to different stakeholders should help decision makers allocate their resources more effectively.

GVE can be of huge benefit to funders. Funders need to know what they are investing in and need to have confidence that their money is making a difference in the world. The GVE will help to calculate the social & environmental return on their investment. It increases the transparency of the sector.

Last but by no means least are the beneficiaries. The GVE allows their experiences to drive the impact measurement agenda. It allows them to reveal what is really happening as a result of an intervention and the value of that change to them. Ultimately, it should result in redesigned interventions that further meet beneficiary needs.

WINGS: What is the Outcome Matrix & how might it promote collaboration between organizations?

BC: The Outcome Matrix table displays a set of outcomes that are used by one organization. The outcomes are configured by outcome group and by stakeholder. We believe this is an excellent way of quickly seeing all of the outcomes that are being reported on by an organization. This could lead to collaboration between similar organizations who might use this to check whether they are reporting on a similar set of outcomes. It is a way of sharing good practice. It is also an opportunity for organizations to develop a common language and consistency.

sroi_matrix_550

WINGS: What are the project’s long term goals?

BC: Ultimately the Global Value Exchange wants to:

  1. Empower beneficiaries. This will be achieved by allowing their perspectives and their experiences to drive impact measurement.
  2. Inform standardisation of outcomes and indicators with information from the beneficiaries. We recognise that standardisation of outcomes and indicators is particularly important, especially in relation to funding and cash flow. Equally as important at the organizational level is the collection of bespoke granular information that helps an organization learn and improve. We hope the GVE can be the place where both sets of information co-exist, and that ultimately the granular information being collected will be used to inform the standardisation.
  3. Build a wider appreciation and understanding of the concept of value. The GVE collects valuations of outcomes. These outcomes are often non-traded goods, so their value is often difficult to articulate. For example, an outcome could be “increased confidence”—the value of which is not commonly known or understood because it is not something that is traded regularly in a market place. The GVE collects valuations of these non-traded goods. These valuations are expressed in monetary terms (financial proxies). We hope that over time we will develop a useful marketplace of non-traded goods, which will help impact measurement understand the value of outcomes.

WINGS: What are your main challenges?

BC: The main challenge with the GVE is convincing users of the site to participate and contribute. Impact measurement is often bespoke and we are encouraging people to share their information. Our challenge is to empower users and show them that they can be part of a collaborative process to improve impact measurement.

We also have a challenge around data quality. Like any crowdsourced resource there is a risk that some of the contributions will not meet a certain standard. We have tackled this by creating a set of protocols we apply to entries. Once an entry has met these protocols we assign it an approved status. Users of the site may then choose to view only ‘Approved’ entries.

WINGS: Have you noticed any cultural or location-based challenges? How do Indicators, Outcomes and Valuations stay relevant across borders, societies and political structures?

BC: The Global Value Exchange is a global resource with regular visitors from a range of countries. While the majority of the entries on the site are from the UK, there are entries from eight other countries with a large amount of valuations soon to be added from a partner in Canada. We believe that many of the outcomes are relevant internationally as people are trying to tackle problems that exist in many different countries and cultures. Objective indicators are more likely to change as these often rely on local data infrastructure. Valuations can also vary across borders, but we’ve built in currency converters, which is a popular feature amongst users.

WINGS: Regarding the challenges and potential effects of standardising measurement and definitions of success across borders and cultures, do theories of change differ by definition or implementation across the world?

BC: The process of standardising measurement is a very difficult challenge and we envisage that standardisation will need to incorporate geographical differences, especially when defining success. However, the global value exchange is a collaborative process that should feed and inform the process of standardisation while allowing stakeholders to be represented more accurately in impact measurement.

Theories of change will differ across the world and we have developed the ‘Chain of Events’ functionality which allows users to link outcomes in a sequence. The evidence for this sequencing of outcomes can be localised, which allows for multiple chains of events and regional variations.

WINGS: How does GVE fit in with the Global Philanthropy Data Charter?

BC: The Global Value Exchange relies on individuals and organizations sharing their information. We believe that the Global Philanthropy Data Charter is a very valuable instrument that can help increase transparency and productivity across the sector. Many of the Charter’s principles are reflected in the seven principles of SROI.

For more on how to track and share the value of your organization, visit The SROI Network’s Global Value Exchange online. More WINGS interviews here.

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