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SROI Case Study: Link Group

SROI Case Study: Link Group, Scotland

You can download a pdf of this case study here.

Link Group is one of Scotland’s leading housing, regeneration and support organisations, providing services to 10,000 families and individuals in 26 Scottish local authority areas.

Sheila Maxwell, Link’s Community Regeneration Officer and an SROI Accredited Practitioner, explains the varied ways that they use SROI across Link’s activities to help them improve their services and win contracts.

1. What does your organisation do?

Link Group is a registered social landlord and social enterprise offering a wide range of housing, support and regeneration services for individuals, families and communities, with our activities mainly concentrated in the central belt of Scotland.
We were formed in 1962 to provide housing for rent to those on low incomes and for people with specific housing needs including the elderly and people with disabilities. 53 years on, Link Group now operates in a variety of areas including:

  • community regeneration services such as employability and financial and digital inclusion
  • tenancy support services
  • local and Scottish Government contracts including care and repair services, private sector leasing, Help to Buy (Scotland) and Help to Adapt
2. Why are you using SROI and how did you go about it?

Our involvement with SROI goes back to 2008. Our original interest in SROI stemmed from the Scottish Government and their SROI project. We felt that we wanted to be able to demonstrate additional impact of our services, not just on a ‘cost benefit’ level, and then potentially use this to improve our service delivery and develop partnerships with identified stakeholders. SROI seemed like a good option.
After going on the practitioner training course, I conducted my first SROI analysis on Link’s Older Persons’ Advice Project. During this experience, the mentoring I received from Sheila Durie, another accredited practitioner in Scotland, was invaluable. This was all back in the early days of SROI – we didn’t even have the Guide to SROI to help us when we started the process!
Since then I have written a couple of other assured reports, and completed analyses on other areas of our work.

3. Has SROI been useful? Have you changed anything as a result of SROI?

Definitely! It’s been very useful for Link Group, its customers and stakeholders.

i. Funding and contracts
We have discovered different dimensions to our service delivery that we were not previously aware of. This has then given us access to other funding sources and new partnership relationships. For example, intermediate outcomes that we identified on the Older Persons Advice Project were used to then gain additional funding.
Other SROIs have been useful as they help us to develop bids and funding applications.

ii. Changed decision making
It’s probably true that the original reason we engaged in SROI was to help us to gain access to funding and confidently demonstrate our positive social impact to stakeholders. However, it’s actually been incredibly useful in helping us to evaluate and improve our services by informing key decisions about delivery.
For example, SROI has helped us with assumptions about our stakeholders. An SROI we conducted on our RealLiving Befriending Service in West Fife (a service to help older people including those affected by dementia) found that the service actually made an equally significant difference to the carer of the client, as to the client themselves. This helped us to change the way we thought about this particular service.
A different example is from when we did an SROI report on Care and Repair services in West Lothian in 2013. One of the big realisations was that we needed to improve our relationship with the NHS and partnerships with other health and social care providers.

iii. General Monitoring and Evaluation practices
We have adopted some principles of SROI in our monitoring and evaluation practices. We ask questions about baselines as a standard part of our initial customer engagement, and include questions about ‘difference made’, rather than just outputs. I believe this has improved the quality of our surveys and feedback across large areas of Link.

iv. External Communications (reputation)
We’ve also found that using SROI has given us an enhanced reputation as a sector innovator – we’ve been involved in promotion of SROI at workshops and events across Scotland and beyond, including the National Australian Housing Conference in Brisbane and Citizens Advice Scotland Conference.

v. Internal Communications
One other less obvious benefit is the difference that SROI reports have made to staff morale. After being involved in the production of an SROI, stakeholder engagement or reading the analysis and case studies afterwards, staff feel less like a cog in a wheel; it puts them more in touch with the difference that they are making on the ground.
SROI also helps to spread information about our services to other parts of Link group – incredibly useful for an organisation of our size and diversity.

4. What would you do differently next time?

A few pieces of advice I’d give to others:

  • Be clear with all concerns about scope, audience and purpose of SROI report before you start
  • When thinking about the above, always factor in extra time for stakeholder involvement. We often assumed that would be equally easy to involve stakeholders across services – in practice this wasn’t true. The nature of the service will influence how easy it is to engage with family members and other stakeholders
  • If you’re new to SROI, get mentoring support or at least peer support
  • You don’t necessarily have to do a full SROI report. Think about which elements are most important to help you to understand your stakeholders and the way they interact with your service.
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