Web-COSI (Web Communities for Statistics for Social Innovation) is a two year project funded by the European Commission and run by four European organisations (see below). The Legatum Institute was delighted to host this event because the project aims to foster engagement with statistics by society at large, particularly with new measures of societal progress, wellbeing and sustainability. The project will involve a number of initiatives of which this workshop at the Legatum Institute is one.

Web-COSI is developed and managed by a team of European organisations:

  • i-genius (World Community of Social Entrepreneurs)
  • Istat (Italian National Statistical Institute)
  • Lunaria (Social Promotion Association)
  • OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development)


Sian Hansen of the Legatum Institute welcomed guests and outlined the overlapping interests of the Legatum Institute, through its annual Legatum Prosperity Index™, and the Web-COSI project. Particularly, she touched upon entrepreneurship, data collection and usage, and local communities as engines of change.

Introductory presentation 1: Web-COSI overview

Donatella Fazio of Istat provided an overview of the Web-COSI project, explaining its purpose, its aims and how they will be achieved.

Introductory presentation 2: Collating and usage of wellbeing data

Stephen Clarke of the Legatum Institute presented the Legatum Prosperity Index™ and explained how the team collect and use different types of wellbeing data. The audience were particularly interested in the research on female safety across the globe. Clarke argued that this was a good example of where the Index can shed-light upon a problem that may be less-understood.

Session 1: Usage of data in initiating social businesses ‘get started’

Rockpool helps clients in the public, private and third sectors to use data in the pursuit of their aims and Oswin Baker, the company’s founder, explained the challenges social enterprises face in using data. Baker was particularly concerned that social enterprises often lack the ability to effectively use data to pitch for finance.

Richinda Taylor of EVA Women’s Aid spoke about the work of her charity, assisting women and children in Redcar and Cleveland who are, or have been, subject to domestic abuse and/or sexual violence. She spoke about her research with Dr Nicky Carthy of Teeside University in assessing domestic violence amongst older women. Taylor also discussed her difficulties in using official data sources to map the demand for her services as it rarely exists.

Session 2: Foster social business ventures

Martyn Oliver of 3SC spoke about winning and managing public services contracts on behalf of third sector organisations. 3SC is at the forefront of increasing the use of public service delivery by third-sector organisations. Oliver spoke about his company’s work on welfare to work and rehabilitation initiatives that have been launched by the current government. He outlined three important changes that he believed were here to stay, and would increase in the future, in public service delivery:

  • Payment by results
  • Use of the third sector
  • Localism in commissioning and delivery

As a result of these changes, the use of data by commissioning bodies, third sector organisations and private sector philanthropy is key. He stressed that there is a disconnect between policy and commissioning and that some departments were more successful than others in putting in place a new emphasis on value, rather than just lowest-cost commissioning.

Ann Fazakerley of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine spoke about the PEEK project. The PEEK project was started by Dr Andrew Bastawrous to address preventable blindness in developing countries. Dr Bastawrous has developed a cheap way to visit, assess and treat people with preventable blindness. Using a clip-on smart phone camera, local health workers can assess possible sufferers, note their location and contact them when treatment is available. The project has received a lot of interest and they have almost completed the business case. Given the cost savings that the project has already created, it promises to revolutionise the way that preventable blindness is treated in the developing world.

Finally, to end the first session, Jide Johnson, founder of Aniboxx, discussed a project his company carried out with Desolenator, a social enterprise spun-out of Imperial College London. Aniboxx was hired by Desolenator to help fundraise for their prototype: a machine that turns saline water into drinking water using sunlight. Aniboxx created a number of videos, including one animation that helped the company raise £150,000 through crowdfunding. Of particular interest was the way in which Aniboxx monitored the video’s analytics and repositioned it to ensure maximum exposure. As a result Desolenator raised £150,000.

Session 3: Evaluate and measure impact

Olinga Ta’eed at the Centre for Citizenship Enterprise and Governance at Northampton University discussed his new venture—the social earnings ratio metric. The metric is produced by gathering data from a range of sources, some in real-time, to assess a company’s social earnings ratio. This is a ratio of social impact to CSR spend. Ta’eed was keen to suggest that his metric was open-source, available to all and would revolutionise how businesses understood social impact. As evidence of the impact it has already had, Ta’eed outlined that the metric will be used in the UK’s Modern Slavery Act, and how many multinational firms have promised to adopt it.

Steve Coles of Intentionality discussed how his organisation helped social enterprises to assess their impact. He discussed the various different metrics, such as outputs and outcomes, social return on investment and well-being assessments, amongst others, that can be used by enterprises. He argued that in many cases social enterprises were using wellbeing metrics to assess their impact, as such metrics best capture their raison d'être.

Session 4: Better understand and communicate the overall phenomenon of social entrepreneurship

The day was bought to a close with presentations from Tommy Hutchinson of i-Genius, Chris Durkin of the University of Northampton and Andrew Rzepa of Gallup.

Hutchinson outlined the difficulties of producing data on social entrepreneurship. He argued that current figures were produced many years ago and without a clear methodology. Partly, he felt that one of the difficulties of measuring social entrepreneurship is that there is no one definition, and this reflects the variety of organisations in the sector. While he called for better statistics, he was wary of statistical agencies creating an artificial definition that would fail to capture the richness and variety of businesses that have a social mission.

Durkin outlined a new approach to measuring social impact that had been developed by him and colleagues. He made a convincing argument that social enterprises should apply such a framework to their operations—and that his own university was doing so.

Rzepa discussed entrepreneurship in general and spoke about the work Gallup are doing assessing individual strengths and entrepreneurial potential. Based on the work of John Clifton, Gallup has developed a technique of assessing an individual’s entrepreneurial potential. The results suggest that around 0.5 per cent of the population have the qualities that make them very likely to be entrepreneurs and another 2-3 per cent have many of the qualities. The upshot, he argued, was that governments needed to do more to encourage and support such individuals. Given that small but fast-growing firms create the vast majority of jobs in an economy and the working-age population is growing ever-larger, this was more necessary than ever.

Looking forward, the Web-COSI project will continue to progress through 2015. Find out more here.

About Web Communities for Statistics for Social Innovation (Web-COSI)

Web Communities for Statistics for Social Innovation is a two-year FP7 co-ordination action (Jan 2014 –Dec 2015), funded by the European Commission DG Connect -CAPS projects which stand at the forefront on how to measure social innovation and on how to improve its indices. Web-COSI is coordinated by Istat (the Italian National Institute for Statistics) with the partnership of OECD, Lunaria, and i-Genius. The project aims to foster the engagement of stake holders and society at large with new measures of societal progress, well-being and sustainability through online initiatives and public webinar with the participation of Institutional actors (such as National Statistical Institutes, Eurostat, and the JRC) alongside civil society organizations, social entrepreneurs, and society at large. To massively engage citizens and young people in beyond GDP analytics, Web-COSI has set up a crowd sourced map of digital initiatives in Europe and in the World, released a Wiki progress data portal, a youth portal, and a European Wikiprogress University Programme on the global platform www.wikiprogress.org. Web-COSI envisages the organization of workshops, focus groups, seminars and conferences in Europe and abroad. Web-COSI is showcased at the 5th OECD World Forum on Statistics, Knowledge and Policy in Mexico in October 2015.