Friday, 20 January 2012

Putting a value on women's services

Show your worth.

This is a request often made by funders or by government to organisations working with people in need. For women's organisations, this leads to difficult questions – how can you put a number on the invaluable support you have provided a woman in terms of her mental health and wellbeing? On the confidence you have enabled her to find, on the fact she can now cope with aspects of life previously unfathomable?

Two years ago Women's Resource Centre, in conjunction with the new economics foundation (nef), set out to, essentially, quantify the unquantifiable, thanks to funding from Trust for London. Using pioneering social return on investment (SROI) techniques and working with five women’s organisations, WRC and nef spent months sifting through data, conducting interviews, crunching numbers and compiling data for analysis.

Our resulting report "Hidden Value, demonstrating the extraordinary impact of women's voluntary and community organisations", focuses on the outcomes created by women’s organisations across a wide range of service areas and highlights the need to support and sustainably fund essential women's services.

It found at the culmination of two years of work that for every pound invested in women's services, between £5 and £11 of worth is generated. This extraordinary figure highlights the broad range of benefits created by women’s organisations for service users, society, families and the state, from combating violence against women to improving health and educational prospects.

Evidence showed that women's organisations increase skills and support entry into employment, improve mental health and wellbeing and reduce risk of self harm and suicide. Crucially, the support given by women's organisations did not end with the woman who went to them in need - it was passed to their families.

Overall, it was demonstrated that by comprehensively addressing the causes and consequences of women’s problems, women's organisations both support individual women's well-being and reduce their need for state-funded services.

"The impact that these charities have goes much further than those women that they seek to help, but as much impacts on wider society because of the crucial role that women still play in raising the next generation even today," said Jenny Rouse, nef consulting analyst.

"Hopefully this SROI report will demonstrate to funders the value that organisations specifically focussed on women’s issues have for society."

Ultimately, the most important finding is that women's organisations' work saves lives. Analysis of violence against women organisation Women and Girls Network (WGN), who participated in the project, predicted that the service prevented at least one suicide a year through its work.

"They made me feel like I was worth something,” one client told the researcher about WGN. "I had 20 years of being told I was useless, worthless."

Now the important part is to build on the research. WRC has sent copies to government, funders, stakeholders, the media, and anyone who could - and should - have an interest in the remarkable work undertaken by women’s organisations. After all, we think we have more than shown its worth.


The organisations involved were Ashiana Network, Women and Girls Network, Heba Women's Project, South Sudan Women's Skills Development, Rape Crisis South London

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