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Evaluation of social impact measurement tools and techniques: a systematic review of the literature

Sally Kah (Department of Strategy, Management and Marketing, Birmingham City University, Birmingham, UK)
Temidayo Akenroye (Liverpool Business School, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK)

Social Enterprise Journal

ISSN: 1750-8614

Article publication date: 14 October 2020

Issue publication date: 1 December 2020




In spite of the availability of metrics for measuring social impact (SI), it can be difficult for organisations to select tools that fit their precise needs. To address this challenge, this study conducts a systematic literature review by using legitimacy theory as a point of departure. It examines tools that capture three dimensions of sustainability – social, economic and environmental (SEE) – and firm size.


Top four journal databases in the social sciences from the FT50 review were searched to identify articles published in peer-reviewed journals in the 2009-2019 period, using keywords to conceptualise the construct. For comprehensive assessment, this study adopted a method that requires the logic synthesis of concepts and evidence emerging from the literature to address the research aim.


The results show that most of the articles developed tools or frameworks to measure SI based on the triple bottom line of sustainability – SEE – and firm size. However, there is insufficient evidence of their integration into practice.

Research limitations/implications

This work contributes to the legitimisation of social enterprises (SEs) by using validated tools and frameworks to develop practical suggestions for SI measurement (SIM).


As legitimacy is an important rationale for SIM, this study adds value through the development of a suitability framework. The framework enables SEs to identify the most appropriate tool for their purpose and size to establish legitimacy through impact measurement and reporting.



Disclosure: No potential conflicts of interest.


Kah, S. and Akenroye, T. (2020), "Evaluation of social impact measurement tools and techniques: a systematic review of the literature", Social Enterprise Journal, Vol. 16 No. 4, pp. 381-402.



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