Assessment of the Social Return on Investment (SROI) of Axes 1 and 3 of the Rural Development Programme for England

The study was an initial attempt to evaluate the overall performance of Axes 1 and 3 of the RDPE in order to inform development of the 2014-20 Programme.

One of the main tasks for the study was to develop a methodology for assessing and valuing the range of outputs recorded on the RDPE Online Database in order to estimate the return on investment of Axes 1 and 3.

CCRI has been pioneering the use of the Social Return on Investment (SROI) framework in policy and programme evaluation, and this project exemplifies its successful application. SROI was applied to provide a holistic appreciation and quantification of the socio-economic and environmental outcomes of multi-faceted funding programmes. Following the principles of SROI, the evaluation was stakeholder driven and outcomes focused. The project was based on four case study counties in four separate regions in England in order to obtain a deeper understanding of how Axes 1 and 3 were operating in specific areas under a range of institutional settings.

The SROI impact map revealed that a large proportion of Axis 1 benefits are in the form of improvements to on-farm environmental sustainability and a lower carbon footprint; improved woodland access; engagement of the livestock industry in relation to animal health and skills; improvements to soil and land management practices; and, development of local capacity in value added.

Ulverston Brewery

Under Axis 3 the SROI impact map revealed that benefits came from a wider range of sources, including: an increase in the creation of new micro-enterprises and growth/development of new micro-enterprises; an increase in cross-community development and regeneration through integrated village initiatives; improved service provision in rural areas; improved potential of the natural and built environment as a basis for economic growth (especially through tourism); improved social capital and strengthened civic engagement through greater use of community buildings and public spaces; and, development of niche markets (i.e. green tourism).

The research concluded that there was a mix of both economic and social benefits arising as a result of investment through the programme funding. It also identified a number of issues associated with the design and delivery of the RDPE that should be addressed in preparation for the next programming cycle from 2014 out to 2020.

Dr John Powell led the research team, closely supported by Professor Paul Courtney and assisted by Jane Mills, Dr Peter Gaskell, Professor Janet Dwyer, Katarina Kubinakova, Nick Lewis and Ian Condliffe. The project was undertaken between November 2012 and October 2013.

The full final report can be downloaded from the Defra website. Further CCRI commissioned research utilising the SROI approach will be published early in 2014.

Millom Network Centre