One Value. What’s social innovation worth?

A new online database of unit values for some of the social challenges facing Portugal.

How much does the state invest in each basic medical emergency treated by its hospitals? What is the investment put daily into a young person getting extra classes at an education centre?

From 20 June, the answers to these questions shall be on the One Value website, a new database of unit values for some of the social challenges facing Portugal.

The One Value platform is a joint project between the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Ministry for the Presidency and Administrative Modernisation, implemented by Social Innovation Portugal and by MAZE (Laboratory for Social Investment). This platform seeks to centralise, harmonise and freely provide information on the unit investment put into dealing with the leading social problems prevailing in Portugal. According to MAZE director António Miguel, the platform “is an aggregator of information on the investment made by the state in education, healthcare, employment, social protection and justice, which enables the identification and calculation of this investment per citizen or field and always from a unitary perspective”.

In ascertaining these values, we may learn for example just how much is saved every time an emergency visit to hospital is avoided (thanks to services such as the Saúde 24 helpline), or every time a student with learning difficulties receives help to pass the year. These statistics “generate information for the state about the potential savings should certain problems be avoided” and “helps investors finance the entities coming up with alternative and innovative solutions to gain a better idea about the value created and the eventual savings this represents”, explained António Miguel.

With this new tool, built to provide assistance to cost-benefit analysis of new social responses, the One Value partners have worked with various public entities across different fields and areas, such as the Central Health Administration System and the Institute of Social Security before systematising the information produced by these entities with the objective of aggregating a set of estimates for the core values.

According to Luís Jerónimo, assistant-director of the Gulbenkian Cohesion and Social Integration Program, providing these amounts is important “to being able to value, in economic terms, the results of organisations that work in social innovation and demonstrating the added value of some of the new interventions in this field”. We thus learn “just what value is created for society when working on issues around unemployment or criminals reoffending, for example”, demonstrating that it is “worthwhile investing in these projects”. The value created or, in other cases, the savings generated serves as an indicator or reference point for measuring the social impact of a specific project.

Despite the systematisation of this information already existing in the United Kingdom, the team that developed the platform in Portugal prioritised accessibility, launching a simple and user-friendly website in order to facilitate consultations and ensure the constant updating of the figures. “In summary, this is a type of PorData with a far more specific scope”, concluded Luís Jerónimo.