Up to this point it has been very difficult to quantify and measure the social impact of community food and farming enterprises which has been a barrier to social investment. This is why over the last 2 years the RFT has been developing and piloting a social impact toolkit with Coventry University’s Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR). This toolkit has been developed in a participatory way with five enterprises that were part of the Just Growth programme. A key and unique feature of the LEAP is its focus on measuring the social impact of the enterprises it supports. All enterprises will be required to measure their impact using our social impact toolkit. They will also be encouraged to work with us, as the pilot enterprises have done, to continue to refine and develop the toolkit so that it can be useful for enterprises across the food chain. We think that building a platform for capturing the impact of community-based food and farming enterprises is key not only for the enterprises themselves to help them assess and improve what they do, but also to encourage more investment into the sector and to create an evidence base for effecting policy change to improve our food and farming system.
Our social impact toolkit identified the key social impacts these enterprises have, which fall broadly into four areas:
- Improved health and well-being
- Community cohesion and engagement
- Good jobs and livelihoods
- Protection of the biosphere
In our initial assessment, we will look for evidence of:
- A clearly defined social mission
- Social mission being embedded in their governing structure, business plan and staff
- Scale and depth of impact in as many of the outcome areas as possible
- A willingness and capacity to measure and report on impact.
Unless an organisation is able to meet these criteria, they would not go forward beyond the assessment stage post application. We make this assessment on the understanding that if the applicant meets our ‘Enlightened Agriculture’ criteria they will – by the very nature of those criteria – be meeting many of our desired outcomes. We also understand that many organisations will need considerable help in refining their social mission and developing their ability and capacity to define, measure and report on social impact. The most important thing at this stage is to have a clear social mission embedded throughout the organisation and a willingness to measure and report on impacts during the term of the loan. We will make a more thorough assessment during the due diligence stage and will offer mentoring and support as part of the process.
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