SAS 800 is a comprehensive guide that focuses on supporting incubators of social enterprises. This SAS becomes effective once posted by ICAI (Institute of Chartered Accountants of India) and offers valuable insights into conducting Social Audits for entities involved in social entrepreneurship. Incubators play a crucial role in nurturing early-stage ventures, and this SAS emphasizes the importance of evaluating their impact and effectiveness.
Process of Social Audit
The SAS offers insightful advice on who the SA should contact in order to gather data for its effect assessment assignment, including but not limited to:
- Direct stakeholders e.g. Incubate Social Enterprises and Research Development Projects
- Target population/ beneficiaries and stakeholders of the direct stakeholders
- Indirect stakeholders e.g., Funding entities, Government and related institutions, media agencies, academic institutions, and professional groups (legal, accounting, compliance, etc.)
- Monitoring Agency
- Staff (full-time/part-time employees, consultants, etc.)
- Board of advisors/trustees/directors
- Key officials of the reporting entity
When conducting surveys and collecting sample data, the following factors should be considered to assess relevance and reliability:
- designed by an in-house team or external specialized agency
- conducted by an in-house team or external specialized agency
- coverage: number and types of Social Enterprises in the Incubator and/or research
- development projects.
After data collection, the SA should thoroughly review the data, which can include conducting physical inspections and one-on-one interviews to better understand the situation.
The social audit process under this SAS involves the SA asking key questions of themselves and the people involved. These questions form the foundation of the Social Impact Assessment Report. These questions could include:
- Did the Incubates attend the training/workshops/convening’s, have access to knowledge materials, and receive advisory services on strategy, fundraising, programs?
- Do they think differently after the training/workshops/convening’s, knowledge?
- Did they learn something they did not know?
- Did they use/apply the knowledge and gain from it?
- Did the learning/knowledge they received translate into noticeable change or impact in their approach/business model?
- For Research and Development Entities – did the amount and duration of funding sufficient to meet your research requirement?
- Whether the need of the incubators is consistent with the needs of the incubates?
- Quality of support services
Likewise, there are many other questions that need to be identified by the SA.
Key Metrics: Framing and Assessment
The SA will follow the results of this evaluation in coming to their report’s conclusion. They will be able to evaluate the performance of the social enterprise based on its social impact after collecting all the data and analyzing the important parameters. These grading inquiries could cover the following topics:
- What would have happened to social sector incubates or Research development projects in the absence of the support services (workshops/training/convening’s, knowledge materials, advisory services, etc.)
- How much have the support services from Incubators contributed to the changes that are evidenced?
- Is there any unintended negative impact that happened due to the offerings made by Incubators?
In relation to the beneficiaries surveyed, such information on assisting social entrepreneurship incubators or R&D projects may include the following details:
- How was the evaluation of applications to the Incubators done?
- What assistance did the incubates receive in creating a sustainable, scalable & profitable business model?
- What was the nature of physical infrastructure and value-added support services provided by the incubator?
- Did the incubates receive access to network of mentors who would provide sector specific knowledge & real-world practical guidance?
- Did the Incubator provide trainings and mentorship to entrepreneurs?
- Did the incubator enable access to prototyping facilities, test beds, markets, and pilot implementation for the product/services?
- Did the incubator provide guidance on building business plans, facilitating investments, building networks etc.?
Assessment of evaluation criteria
The Social Auditor needs to recognize evaluation criteria of both Qualitative and Quantitative for assessing the impact.
Some key aspects that can be considered as evaluation criteria are listed below:
(A) Internal process
- Number of Incubatee applications received
- Percentage of incubates selected based on selection criteria
- Percentage occupancy of the incubator
- Quantum of grants disbursed to the incubatees and Research Development entities
(B) Capacity building
- Number of entities incubated
- Percentage of successfully graduated incubates
- Increase in rate of growth of supported start-ups (in funds raised, impact delivered)
- Percentage of commercialized research or technology creation
- Number of patents filed
(C) Market outreach
- Number of entities mentored during and post incubation
- Number of entities provided relevant market insight and facilitate market connections
- Number of incubatees with defined succession plans and/or well-defined second-line leadership
- Number of organisations fully compliant with statutory and legal requirements across functions as certified by audit
- Number of technological innovations monetised
- Evidence of increased organisational capacity: changes in People, Process and Tools over baseline in a functional area (Product, Technology, Machine & Equipment and impact, Finance, People, Learning & Development, Fundraising, Advocacy etc);
- Evidence of operational excellence: Improvements in making and meeting commitments, Improved cost per unit impact, Maturity of internal practices such as management of data, financial auditing, employee engagement and retention (possibly measured by Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) or other maturity assessment framework)
- Increase in organisation resilience measured with respect to:
(1) Capital raised
(2) Products launched
(3) Customer base
(4) Cash flow
Challenges/Areas for improvement
Based on their suggestions and input, which may have an impact on the impact assessment, the stakeholders’ difficulties and areas for improvement should be identified by the social auditor.
- Attribution of impact between the Incubator and the Incubatee.
- Relatively higher experiment failure rates in research and development projects.
- Unavailability of adequate funds among non-profit entities for availing support services from ecosystem entities
- Mismatch in the expectations from the start-ups from the incubator.
- Paucity of resources at the incubator to support the identified pain points of the Incubatee
- Limited availability of phase-wise fund utilization data from Incubatees and Research and Development entities.
- Indirect nature of the services provided e.g. research and other knowledge products widely disseminated, policy changes impacting wider population groups
- Cases of no-response in case the questionnaire is not administered in person
- Some of the questions being skipped by the respondents and remaining unanswered
- Non-availability of respondents after completion of the workshops/trainings/convening’s, advisory services, etc.
- Change in contact details of respondents due to which they could not be contacted
Any significant challenges or limitations observed must be highlighted by the SA in their report.
It is a common saying that “Rome was not built in a day” and “It takes a village to raise a child”. This is also true for social enterprises in the context that it takes a while to build a successful social enterprise and it takes the effort of a lot of people and entities to build it. This SAS talks about these supporting incubators and how to implement Social Audit for such entities.