Emerging Trends in Social Accounting
PhD Student, Alliance Manchester Business School
Social Value Network Conference
Research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council
Supervised by Professor Kenneth McPhail and Professor Sven Modell
• Introduce myself
– Management Accountant
– 15 years in strategic & financial planning in blue chips (UU Plc, TUI
– Last 4 years in not for profit sector – consultancy (accounting, project
management, all sorts!)
– Trustee of Survivors Manchester – first SROI
– Continuing to work part time in not for profit sector whilst study for PhD
part time at AMBS
• Show of hands
– Social impact practitioner?
– Local Authority?
– Voluntary sector group?
– Housing Association?
My Research Interests
1) How not for profit sector accounts for itself
3) Methods of defining and measuring social
2) Impact of growth in public sector outsourcing
4) Is standardised social value accounting a good
or bad thing
5) Who holds the responsibility for not for profit sector
• Political Environment
– Labour Government 2008 – SROI project
• Cabinet Office Guide to SROI 2009
– Coalition Government 2010 – change of focus
– Big Society Launch 2010 – community / localism
– Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 – procurement
– Charities Act Review 2012 – charitable objectives
– G8 Social Impact Investment Taskforce (Measuring Impact Working
Group) 2014 – need to measure social investment
• Academic Research
– Reviews of technical limitations of specific tools (eg 3BL, SROI, LM3)
– Use of tools in stakeholder prioritisation (eg SROI)
– Gap – Research into non-financial accounting standardisation
• Catasús 2008 (based on Choudhury 1988)
– Titled “In Search of Accounting Absence”
– As much to learn from absence as presence
– Absence normally related to failure
• “from nothing nothing is produced”
• “what gets measured gets managed”
– Negative absence – antithesis of presence
– Positive absence – as a phenomena in its own right
• Not the standard research perspective
– Research challenge – need to know what to expect to
know what is not there
– Publishing bias towards positive results?
Virtues of Absence
• Choudhury’s (1988) Virtues
• Can be counterproductive to introduce accounting
• Trust can be stronger than then systems it replaces
– Constructive Ambivalence
• Rigidity of systems
• Constrain ‘blank canvas’ innovation
• Accounting symbolises rationality / legitimacy
• Conformance or non-conformance could be symbolic
– The state of being accountable
– Being subject to the obligation to report, explain,
or justify something (to give an account)
– The state of being responsible
– Having the power to control, manage, or
– Measurement, Timing (before or after the event)
Question 1: Does accountability for social value
Question 2: Is the absence of a standardised
social value accounting approach a good thing
or a bad thing?
I’m Fran – researcher at AMBS
Can I record and use elements of discussion for own research?
- Approx. 10 minutes me talking (no Qs)
My background and yours
My research project at AMBS
Meaning of accounting absence and whether a good or bad thing
Introduce concepts of accountability / responsibility
Pose two questions to discuss in groups 20 minutes
Brief feedback from each group
Things I am interested in
1- difference in levels of transparency, traditional accounting doesn’t work
2- growing importance, some high profile failures
3- various different tools, little consistency?
4- can we standardise, should we standardise?
5- who can make a change – government, regulators, funders, commercial sector?
What’s already been done:
Some political background
Labour government interest to justify policy – impact measurement – chose SROI – Guide to SROI
Dropped by coalition government
More outsourcing – big society
Social Value Act – requiring public sector orgs to consider social impact in procurement, but how?
Charities Act Review – charities must account for their impact
G8 – need for measurability to stimulate social investment
Mainly focussed on comparing tools and their technical capabilities
Some use of tools to analyse stakeholder engagement
No work done on why there is still a lack of accounting standardisation for non financial performance
Some suggestions made for research into absence
Not been a popular approach despite clear opportunities
Possibly because difficult?
Possibly because not as publishable?
Is absence a good thing?
Tied into the possible virtues of absence:
Difference between accountability and responsibility
Are they compatible in field of social value accounting?
Break out into 3? groups to consider these questions
Makes notes on flipchart, will ask for some feedback at the end for 2 minutes each group
Allocate groups & give finish time
Thanks for input?