Social impact assessment provides important data and indicators that are needed to determine whether social enterprises are achieving their social missions. It is therefore increasingly required by investors and donors. Collecting this data can be a challenging task, which may be a reason why 45% of Thai social enterprises do not measure their social impact, according to the Thailand Social Enterprise Report (2020). Even those that do can find it challenging to keep track of the impacts they achieve and to collect the right kind of data that best represent these changes. Social impact assessment is therefore an ongoing journey, one that Steps has been willing to embark on.

Steps is a social enterprise that provides education and work training for young adults with learning differences, such as autism, since 2016. The SE is issuing annual impact reports since 2019. Yet, conversations between the Steps co-founder Uang Hotrakitiya and the School of Global Studies revealed that identifying the actual links between the activities Steps is offering and the impacts the trainees are experiencing is an ongoing task. This has especially been the case for new activities, such as the “Business Service Center” at Steps, where trainees digitize and sort documents provided by outside businesses. Following these conversations SGS offered to assess the social impact of this recently established Business Service Center.

The SGS researchers, Panisa Songsithichoke (cohort 6 of the BA-GSSE program) and Ajarn Istvan Rado, conducted interviews with trainees and parents between January and March 2022, which resulted in the following deliverables:

A stakeholder-based Theory of Change (ToC): A ToC provides clarity about the impacts of a social enterprise by visualizing cause and effect processes. In-depth interviews with stakeholders enabled the researchers to visualize the changes trainees experienced as a result of working with Steps.

Identifying main outcomes: Main outcomes are usually long-term changes to wellbeing that are repeatedly referred to by respondents.

Assigning indicators to outcomes: Concrete examples provided by interviewees about the changes they have experienced can be used as a basis for impact measurement.

Aj Istvan and Panisa presented the impact study report summarizing the deliverables at the Steps Vocational Center on 20 July 2022. The presentation was joined by the co-founders Max Simpson and Uang Hotrakitya, Yim Minchainant (psychologist and coach), Gamm Ritthinumporn (partnerships officer), and Ton Nattakorn Asunee Na Ayudhaya (communications manager), as well as two researchers from Sasin School of Management at Chulalongkorn University.

Currently, Steps and SGS are exploring ways to continue their collaboration in the social impact assessment field. Both organizations aim to improve their understanding of how different beneficiary groups experience changes in their wellbeing across different training programs. This will help in better targeting intended impacts among organizations working with neurodiverse young adults. 

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