I decided to write about this topic following a brief but very interesting conversation with a friend over coffee. He asked, how can you measure social good? What are the metrics, indicators, and quantitative ways that we can be sure anything good is being created? There's no definitive answer to this, and it's something that is becoming increasingly more important as social good becomes a more mainstream concept. By mainstream I am referring to the growing involvement of the private sector, entrepreneurs, and the demand for transparency from the public regarding how NGOs manage donated funds. The second half of the question was, how can you measure social bad? Is it basically when the metrics or indicators of social good aren't met?
Things that make you go 'hmmm'.
Let's use an example: Executive pay in non-profits.
Check out the following statement taken from Bloomberg.com:
More than 20 nonprofit groups, from New York Presbyterian Hospital and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, paid top executives more than $1 million a year in 2010 and 2011, the Chronicle of Philanthropy found. (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-17/nonprofit-ceo-pay-topping-1-million-rises-with-scrutiny.html)
My opinion on executive pay in non-profits adopts a moderate view. I strongly believe that to attract top talent, pay is an important factor. I do however question the incentive of over $1 million to work for a non-profit. Is it not possible in this day and age to find another individual with the same business acumen, but with an equal passion for the cause as well? However, I digress, back to our conversation around social bad.
The idea is that Mrs.X, CEO of Company "Find A Job", a non-profit, should have performance measurements for her organization that measure the social impact of her company in relation to her level of pay - say, the number of individuals placed in jobs after training, or the number of individuals able to come off of welfare for instance. The more she makes, the greater the impact should be on these metrics. Social bad therefore is the result of failing to meet these social measurements - fewer people securing jobs, fewer people coming off of welfare for example. Barring any uncontrollable or unforeseen circumstances affecting the company, this result would equal a social bad.
In order to remain accountable, transparent, and to always ensure the mission of the organization is met, I agree with my friend, things need to be measured. Social bad therefore, is a concept that helps us avoid being apathethic, it holds us accountable, and keeps us striving for improvement. Sometimes a little negativity helps motivate us to reach our goals, and social bad is a perfect example of this.
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