Creative United is a multi-tasking organisation. We’re working with art galleries, musical instrument retailers, artists and micro-enterprises from across the creative, arts, cultural and heritage sectors. We’re delivering consumer credit products to widen access to arts and music. We’re delivering support to organisations and individuals in the form of one-to-one business advice. We’re designed training workshops and e-learning courses. We’re commissioning content and managing relationships with many stakeholders and partners.

We create positive experiences, build skills and confidence, and open up access to cultural experiences for a diverse range of people right across the UK. Our programmes are complex, involving partners from the charitable and commercial sectors. They are finely tuned to deliver maximum impact on limited resources, and have been doing so for over a decade.

Image courtesy of The Auxilairy, Prosper North participant

This being the case, we have thought long and hard about how exactly we describe the myriad work we do, and how we bring it all together to evidence its impact. An approach that we’ve been developing over the last couple of years is to build a framework and methodology that measures our Social Return on Investment (“SROI”). Put simply, for every pound of investment in our programmes and services, what is the output value of the social change and benefits that our activities generate?

After a process of consultation and review, we were able to define 8 distinct ways we create impact:

Social (for people) – Access, Participation, Inclusion and Well-being

  1. Access to or participation in music in schools is improved for disabled children.
  2. Access to a creative pursuit and/or hobby is enabled.
  3. Financial barriers to creative opportunities for people have been reduced.
  4. People have an improved quality of life, sense of confidence or self-esteem.
  5. People feel more part of, or have improved access to, a community or network with shared interests

Economic (for business) – Resilience and Skills

  1. People have greater skills in sustainable enterprise.
  2. Businesses have improved routes to markets and local ecosystems.
  3. Creative and cultural entrepreneurs, businesses and organisations increase their resilience.

Each of our programmes and services embodies at least two of these statements. Having defined these Social Value Statements, we next needed to create our process for calculating what their social value is.

In early 2023 we established a new partnership with University College London (UCL). Together we are working on a Knowledge Exchange project. With their expertise in research and SROI methodologies and our data, understanding of the cultural sector, and social value statements, we are co-developing a new SROI methodology to better measure and communicate Creative United’s impact, and potentially explore how this methodology could be applied elsewhere in the sector.

We expect to have formulated our new SROI framework for calculating our impact by the end of this year, following more data analysis and consultations with people who have benefitted from our work; people who have had art, craft and music instruments made affordable for them, and business owners, leaders and creatives who have been able to take their enterprises forward because of our support schemes. We look forward to being able to share these results with you, and look for ways to make our methodology something that can benefit other sector support-style organisations.