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Social return on investment for FoodWise

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Team members
Jacob Faierman
Nathan Lam
Alex Patel
Manish Raj

Faculty mentor
Riitta Katila

Sponsor organization
FoodWise is a Mauritius-based non-governmental organization seeking an end to both food waste and food insecurity.

Project description

We were tasked with creating a social return on investment (SROI) framework for FoodWise, in an attempt to identify the impact of each of the organization's various projects. Prior to our engagement, FoodWise calculated just one SROI for one of their projects, which tracked only financial benefits.

Our goal was to provide FoodWise with not just an SROI framework for five main projects and the aggregate organization, but also the tools to calculate SROI—a calculator, sensitivity analysis, etc.—as well as insights derived from these calculations.

Techniques and methods used

We relied heavily on our quantitative MS&E background for this project. This was a spreadsheet-heavy project, involving numerous calculations and large datasets. We also incorporated various finance-adjacent concepts, such as ROI, sensitivity analysis, and inflation adjustments. Finally, we incorporated some programming in R to create a dashboard with a simple interface for the FoodWise team.

This was also a research-heavy project. We spent a great deal of time going through the existing literature on both SROI calculations and various statistics to reflect intangible and social impacts. We feel our calculations are backed in strong existing research and rely on largely quantifiable metrics.

Solutions and deliverables

Our final deliverables are as follows:

  • A new SROI methodology derived from existing literature and methodologies
  • SROI calculations for five FoodWise projects as well as the organization in aggregate
  • Simple spreadsheet calculator for SROIs, including sensitivity analysis on attribution and deadweight
  • Simple inflation-adjustment calculator for financial aspects of Food Redistribution project
  • Calculator showing investors the impact of their dollars based on allocation into projects
  • KPI dashboard and predictor based on coding in R
  • Insights and strategic recommendations for FoodWise going forward

FoodWise will benefit in multiple ways from our final deliverables. First, they will be able to quantify impact and present new figures to investors, who are seeking to better understand the organization's impact. Second, the FoodWise team will be able to see how their projects compare to each other, and how they trend over time (i.e. are projects becoming more or less efficient). Finally, FoodWise will be able to calculate their own SROI metrics going forward, and can use the same framework for any new projects they pursue in the future. We are beyond excited to see how FoodWise utilizes our work!

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2024 senior projects