Challenges to measuring social value creation through social impact assessments: the case of RVA Works

Purpose – Despite the prevalence of academic literature debating and proposing competing conceptions of social value creation through socially driven enterprises, there is a lack of empirical studies on established impact measurement methodologies in the context of real-world ventures. The purpose of this paper is to illustrate a structured process of conducting social impact assessments (SIAs) through the real-world case of Richmond, Virginia Works Enterprise Support (RVA Works), a social enterprise in Richmond, Virginia, that provides educational programming on small business ownership to minorities and lower-income individuals.
Design/methodology/approach – This qualitative research study incorporates an in-depth case study methodology. Evidence was collected through interpretive/qualitative interviews and direct observations by the researchers.
Findings – Using the example of RVA Works, the authors show that there is a lack of standardization and guidance for social entrepreneurs in choosing methods to assess their organizational performance, and that leading conceptions of social impact continue to face key weaknesses in their methodologies.
Practical implications – By incorporating a qualitative case study approach, the authors present a realworld study of a social enterprise – specifically a microenterprise development organization – that may serve as a valuable example to social entrepreneurs and not-for-profit leaders facing similar challenges of social value creation and impact measurement.
Originality/value – In studying the experience of conducting SIAs by social enterprises, the authors illustrate the real-world challenges faced by entrepreneurs in applying theoretical conceptions of social value to the outcomes of their ventures, thus illustrating a need for additional clarity and discussion around a more comprehensive, standardized and broadly applicable measurement approach.


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