Measuring Social ROI in an Online Marketplace

The founders of Social Markets say it is “building the foundation for a true social capital marketplace.” Now that’s one tall order, yet the creation of the year-old nonprofit is aimed at fulfilling a need on the lips of social entrepreneurs, grantmakers, and philanthropists big and small for years. Founded by Allan Benamer (author of the Non-Profit Tech Blog) and Jeff Tuller, Social Markets will attempt to gather data from both donors and social entrepreneurs and present it back to the “market” in the form of easy-to-digest metrics and graphics.

I kicked the tired on the beta site this week and found the combination of sliders to rank various aspects of a program’s efficacy – that is to say, my subjective response to the value of three social change propositions – along with accepted academic research in each area to be intriguing. Once, say, thousands of users do the same thing, you may well get a “wisdom of the crowds” graph on the perceived value for donors and organizers, providing some for of social ROI. It’s too early to tell, of course, but you have to admire the audacity of the project’s goal. (Those interested in beta-testing should drop a line to Allan via allan at Or just become a fan of Social Markets on Facebook – that’s the preferred news channel. I liked this quote:

As of this writing, is fresh and new, overflowing with the ideas, creativity and optimism of its founders and small, plucky base of supporters. However, this is an ambitious project, and that ambition includes aggressive growth in the size of our community. We expect that growth to introduce a healthy amount of pessimism into the equation, but that our current optimism will eventually rule the day. We look forward to both that happy day and the journey which will bring us there.

In any case, I’m adding Social Markets to the list of platforms.


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