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July 3, 2019

Compassionate communities

If the crisis facing social care in this country is ever going to be met, most people recognise that the solution rests with finding a way to meld the formal health and social care provision with the informal resources that lie within every community. Some interesting and ground-breaking work taking place in Inverclyde where local people are offering two different services based on the simple premise that we all have capacity to show compassion towards our fellow citizens. One service aims to support folk at the end of life and the other, to support patients on dicharge from hospital.

Ardgowan Hospice

A Deeper Dive – an evaluation of Compassionate Inverclyde 

Compassionate Inverclyde is fundamentally about ordinary people doing ordinary things for ordinary people to enhance the wellbeing of all local people and for the community as a whole. It is driven by the intrinsic values of the community, with actions based on community strengths and indigenous ways of thriving. Volunteers and local community groups have chosen the ways in which they wish their informal resources to benefit the community.


Compassionate Inverclyde has evolved in the context of measuring outcomes that matter. Therefore, although it has captured some information on inputs, activities and outputs, the relentless focus has been on capturing and sharing images and stories of positive outcomes in a language that resonates with local people.

Much of the information is gathered by volunteers using social media. Highlights are reported to the Board members to provide confidence that the strategic objectives are being progressed. Reporting has been light touch and agile and the process itself has helped to create connections and social capital. Reporting has affirmed the countless contributions of local people but has not attempted to attribute direct impact or estimate cost effectiveness.


 Efforts to estimate social return on investment (SROI) attempt to produce a monetary value for the tangible and intangible results from investment in social programmes. This monetary value can then be compared to the resources required to set up and run specific programmes to ensure investments are made, to the correct extent, in the right programmes. A recent review of hundreds of projects in over 40 countries by Prosocial Valuation and Performance Research1 identified the qualities which most influenced the projects’ eventual value. These qualities are:

1. Audacity – envisioning big and bold solutions 

2. Connectivity – deeply engaging with the community being served


3. Capacity – using data to understand and improve

4. Ingenuity – disrupting entrenched approaches

5. Tenacity – leveraging the time, relationships, resources required to persevere

6. Diversity – generating revenue and support from multiple sources.

Although Compassionate Inverclyde is still in its early stages, the data gathered through the evaluation process to date highlights that it has many strengths in areas which will lead to a positive SROI. It is clearly following a path which is likely to influence social value. Over time, it may be possible to set the impact of Compassionate Inverclyde against the investment. However, this is difficult because outcomes, by their very nature, tend to be long term and many are not easily pinned down or measurable; and even if they are measureable, it may not be possible to agree and place an appropriate financial value on them. It is clear that dozens of great outcomes are being experienced by hundreds (and in a smaller way thousands) of people of all ages.