Social auditing is a process that enables an organisation to assess and demonstrate its
social, economic, and environmental benefits and limitations. It is a way of measuring the
extent to which an organisation lives up to the shared values and objectives it has
committed itself to.
Social auditing provides an assessment of the impact of an organisation's non-financial
objectives through systematically and regularly monitoring its performance and the views
of its stakeholders.
Social auditing requires the involvement of stakeholders. This may include employees,
clients, volunteers, funders, contractors, suppliers and local residents interested in the
organisation. Stakeholders are defined as those persons or organisations who have an
interest in, or who have invested resources in, the organisation.
Social audits are generated by the organisation themselves and those directly involved.
A person or panel of people external to the organisation undertakes verification of the
social audit's accuracy and objectivity.
The social auditing process requires an intermittent but clear time commitment from a
key person within the organisation. This social auditor liases with others in the
organisation and designs, co-ordinates, analyses and documents the information collected
during the process.
Social auditing information is collected through research methods that include social
bookkeeping, surveys and case studies. The objectives of the organisation are the starting
point from which indicators of impact are determined, stakeholders identified and research
tools designed in detail.
The collection of information is an on-going process, often done in 12-month cycles and
resulting in the organisation establishing social bookkeeping and the preparation of an
annual social audit document/report.
Experience has shown that it is important to provide training to the social auditor as
well as mentoring during the first few years. If well facilitated, social auditors from
different organisations can become self-supporting for subsequent years.
A social audit can complement an organisation's annual financial audit by providing
clear and succinct information on performance against social objectives. The results can
be fed into the organisation's strategic review and planning processes to improve overall
performance and social impact. It has been shown to increase accountability of the
organisation to its stakeholders and to enhance democratic practice. In addition to
serving as a management tool, social audits can be used for marketing, promotion and
advocacy purposes. Many of these are key factors in community land initiatives.
The methodology of social auditing could be tailored to ensure baseline and comparable
information was produced by community land associations themselves. This would enable the
social, environmental and economic impact of land initiatives to be compared and
contrasted by the Community Land Units for the HIE and Scottish Enterprise Network areas.
The Social Economy Agency (Northern Ireland) began promoting social auditing in 1996.
The first social audits involved training and mentoring 10-organisations. External
consultants were used to design the social audit methodology, and provide training and
support to auditors within each organisation. This process took between 18 to 24 months of
decreasing levels of support.
The Northern Ireland Open College Network has accredited this social auditing approach
to Level 3. A second round of organisations will begin the process in 1998. A detailed
training manual has also been produced and can be obtained from the NI Social Economy
Agency. See next section for details.
This example provides interesting lessons in how to establish a networked cluster of
local auditors based within a range of organisations but who use common standards research
methodology, and training/mentoring approach.
The Social Audit Training Pack is available from Anne Molloy at the Social
Economy Agency NI, 2 Bay Road, Derry, BT48 7SH Tel: 028 7137 1733 Fax: 028 7137 0114
Readers wishing to obtain more information on Social Auditing are referred to the