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September 21, 2011

Great value but how much is it worth?

Gorgie City Farm is one of Edinburgh’s hidden jewels.  Over the years, thousands of children have enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of farm life right in the heart of the city. Anyone who’s been there would agree – it’s a great project. It ticks all the right boxes – environmental, educational, health and well-being, volunteering and social care. But agreeing that something is worthwhile isn’t always enough to win financial support. Prove it, the funders say. Now they have

Full report can be accessed here

“It is invaluable to the community”. This is how one visitor described Gorgie City Farm in Edinburgh, its work with children, young people and disadvantaged adults, and the huge benefits it has on people’s physical and mental health, community cohesion, the local economy and the environment. There is a great deal of qualitative research1 to support these claims, but unfortunately very little quantitative evidence. Funders and policy makers are increasingly looking for figures to match the facts, so Social Return on Investment (SROI) has been developed as a way to try to value the “invaluable”. 

SROI puts a financial value on the impact of an activity that otherwise may not be given value and therefore may not feature in decision making. (For more details on the background and principles of SROI see Appendix b). This SROI analysis has shown that the Community Garden Project at Gorgie City Farm benefits a wide range of “stakeholders” (including volunteers, visitors, the NHS, the local council and the environment) and that for every pound invested in the Project by funders, £3.56 of social value is generated. In other words, the value of the investment is more than tripled. 

This value is likely to be an understatement, as we have been cautious in our calculations. For example, several Outcomes and stakeholders were excluded from the analysis, and it is likely that financial proxies have underestimated the value of some Outcomes (see the Audit Trail section for more information.) 

However, SROI is about much more than just the investment ratio. This analysis has been a useful exercise for the Community Garden Project. For example, the staff have discovered facts they didn’t know before, including the wonderful news that one of their volunteers had completely stopped taking their anti-depressant medication as a result of being at the Farm. The SROI analysis has also been beneficial for Gorgie City Farm as an organisation, to recognise the value of the Community Garden Project. When the Community Garden Project started in 2005, some staff were sceptical: ”it’ll never work – people are only interested in the animals!” As you will see from the results of our surveys and quotes from visitors, volunteers and other service users, this analysis has proved that this is just not the case.