Increasing emphasis is being placed by Government on capturing the return and value of adult learning, whether it is for economic, social or community purposes. NIACE supports this process and adds new dimensions to its many ways of capturing impact.
A particular focus across all Government departments is on how to capture the social return on the investment that is made in adult learning and skills, as well as the economic returns. NIACE has been working with central and local Government to position learning and skills as central to many wider agendas such as health and well-being, anti-poverty and the localism debate.
Penny Lamb, NIACE Programme Manager, said:
"NIACE has a long tradition of sharing and celebrating the very best of adult learning and skills, whether that is through working with providers to showcase effective practice, celebrating the individual and group achievements through Adult Learners' Week or working with providers to ensure effective quality improvement systems to capture and record achievement. Capturing social value in this way adds a new and increasingly important dimension to our work."
One of the methods NIACE has recently been exploring is Social Return on Investment (SROI). Working together with adult learning providers, NIACE has tested a specific model sponsored by the Cabinet Office. It assesses social and economic value and was developed in 2008 by a consortium of the SROI Network, the New Economics Foundation (NEF), the Charities Evaluation Services (CES), the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and the New Philanthropy Council (NPC).
The SROI model is particularly relevant for adult learning. Its key messages are about valuing what matters and capturing the contribution that learning makes to changing learners' lives, and assessing how projects or activities create change for the provider and other key stakeholders. It enables a fundamental review of what changes from an activity and provides an assessment of its level of success in creating social value for all involved.
Supported by the Local Government Group, NIACE has produced three narratives on the social value of adult learning, ideal for decision makers in local authority settings. The three booklets share case studies on capturing social value:
NIACE, in partnership with the SROI Network, is also using the model with a sample of Adult and Community Learning Fund. The project leads have been trained in using the SROI methodology and will be mentored through the process. A common set of outcomes will be drawn together from all the projects later this Autumn, which will feed into the Government review of Informal Adult and Community Learning.
In addition, according to a new research approach examining the economic and social effects of part-time adult learning for NIACE, The SROI Network and the Local Government Association, participating in part-time adult learning courses has significantly positive effects on individual well-being. The research - Valuing the Impact of Adult Learning - was undertaken by Daniel Fujiwara of the London School of Economics and Political Science.
NIACE will continue to use this page to share the findings of this work and to collect data and benchmarking information on impact and value. For more information please contact Penny.Lamb@niace.org.uk