Social return on investment (SROI) is a form of evaluation that promises to stimulate funding from both public and private sources for programs that prevent or remediate human suffering and fulfill human potential. By connecting societal resources with evidence-based programs, SROI attempts to guide private investors and corporations as well as governments “… to do well (in investments) by doing good (in aiding fellow human beings).” SROI can be critiqued as being a new version of existing forms of cost-inclusive evaluation, i.e., cost-benefit analysis, with more stakeholders. Evaluators, advocates, providers, and consumers who conceptualize human services as entitlements may fear that funding for critical services will end unless those services are found to return not only more than they consume, but more than competing programs. This panel orients participants to these issues, starting with definitions, then examples, and finally issues of primary concern to evaluators and program planners.
Lecturer in Social Enterprise and Management,
Dept of Economics, George Washington University