Knowledge Bank

Social Return on Investment

November 30, -0001, Evaluation Observatory

Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, quit his job as a financial analyst to make a world class education accessible for all through his free videos for students. Despite Khan’s initial struggled to make the initiative financially sustainable, Khan’s vision kept him going.

With time, the initiative gained momentum, with Khan Academy becoming increasingly influential with the difference it was making in the lives of millions of students. The TIMEs magazine even named him one among the 100 most influential people in the world. With the kind of difference Khan was making in the lives of children across the world; for every dollar invested in the project, the social returns on investment were simply exponential. You can read more about Khan’s initiative here

For every dollar invested in the project, can we measure the social returns on investment in monetary terms? The Social Return on Investment (SROI) method precisely attempts to capture this.

Social Return on investment(SROI) is a framework for measuring social and environmental values and accounting for economic cost benefits in the project's decision-making (Durie et al., 2012). Itgives more importance to ‘value’ over ‘money’. While a return on investment is just a number, a ‘social return on investment’ is about creating a change by looking beyond numbers and expressing the social values in terms of the monetary ratio.

List of recommended resources:

For a broad overview

  • Hall Aitken developed this guide to help practitioners understand the social value of an organisation's impact. It has three parts: Is this for you, why, what, and how? and practical next steps.

For in depth understanding

  • An Independent Think Tank, the New Economics Foundatoin (NEF) has developed this resource for public and private organisations, third sector organisations, or anyone interested in SROI. The guide provides descriptions, definitions of key terms, a checklist and tips for conducting SROI

  • The Cabinet Office of Third Sector and Scottish Government have jointly developed this resource, guiding practitioners on the SROI methodology and its utility

Case Study

  • Lentil as Anything describes itself as a movement for ‘social fairness and inclusion’, removing prices on Menu cards to promote social inclusion through a ‘pay as you feel’ model. This vodeo resource talks about the SROI report of the initiatives highlights gains in social inclusion, employment, government cost savings in terms of monetary value.


  • In collaboration with Hall Aitken, Social Value UK has developed this resource that helps assess the quality social value measurement against the seven SROI principles

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