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Posted Thursday, September 5, 2019 by Rich Bowlen

Applying Social ROI to Justify Technology Spending

When child welfare agencies need to convey the value of technology they want to purchase to county administrators and other stakeholders to secure funding and resources, focusing on time-savings and cost-savings isn’t enough. To tell the whole story, it’s imperative to demonstrate social return on investment (SROI) to prove how technology will impact the well-being of the whole community.

Full summary:

We know it can be hard for local child welfare agencies to convince county administrators, legislators, or other stakeholders that they need budget for new technology. It’s especially difficult when other local entities—think libraries, roads and bridges, public transportation, parks and recreation—are asking for their own piece of the pie for meaningful projects too.

Part of the challenge is talking about the technology in the context of how it will impact the well-being of the whole community, not just individual agency workers. Solely focusing on time-savings and cost-savings doesn’t tell the whole story. You also must demonstrate how technology gives you footing for better community-driven outcomes, and that’s where social return on investment (SROI) comes in.

The Balance, a small business blog, has some advice that (while technically for nonprofits) can be helpful for child welfare: “How to Prove Nonprofit Impact with SROI.” In short, the goal is to find ways to show the double bottom line: financial AND social impact.

Using Traverse® as an example, here are a couple of examples of social ROI an agency could consider when talking to decision-makers:

  • If workers have more time to spend on child and family engagement, can they reduce the length of stay for kids in foster care? If so, how much can you improve the likelihood of positive outcomes in a child’s future? Will this impact their future societal/community contributions?
  • If workers have more time to prepare for court, can you shorten the time families are involved in the system? What ripple effects will you create for schools, hospitals, economic services, or the legal system by doing so?

Check out the article and see if it sparks any ideas for your agency. We’d love to hear from you too: what are some other community-driven outcomes you wish you could more accurately measure? How can SROI help?

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