How Adopting a ‘Measure with Intent’ Mindset can deliver Social Change

At Social Sense, our greatest ability is delivering and demonstrating social impacts at scale.

Over the last 10 years we’ve achieved great results in the areas of smoking, alcohol, drugs, knife crime, domestic abuse and mental health and now we’re applying our learning in new areas such as helping people to live well with dementia.

So how exactly are we doing it?

In this blog I’d like to share 6 principles that you can use in your school, workplace or council run campaigns to deliver significant and measurable social change. I’d like to talk about the importance of ‘measuring with intent’ and how a change towards this mindset could help you to deliver exceptional results.

As part of our commitment to continuously improve, it would be great to hear your thoughts, comments and also your examples of excellence that we can share with others.

Here we go!

Principle 1: Stop problem solving and start re-imagining!

Before delivering any health or social Intervention within schools, workplaces or communities its essential to identify and engage the people who matter most in the process. It’s really important to listen to all stakeholders but above all, it’s about making sure the people most likely to benefit are heard loud and clear from the start.

Instincts often lead people to consult with individuals and groups from a ‘deficit’ position, i.e. examining first what needs to be fixed.  This may include running a series of focus groups aimed at identifying and solving previous problems. We find this approach quite limiting.


At Social Sense we prefer to take an Appreciative Inquiry Approach, which appreciates ‘what is’, imagines ‘what might be’ and presents back ‘what should be’.  (Cooperrider and Srivastva et al 1987)

Changing your mindset from problem solving to one of re-imagination and rebuilding, could be the difference between achieving a good result and an exceptional result.

Further reading:

Principle 2: Change the focus from ‘taking temperatures’ to monitoring distance travelled.

How many times have we seen schools, organisations and local governments take surveys and do nothing with the data? It’s not good enough to simply take a temperature without a plan or follow up in place. Before any survey ask yourself these 3 questions.

Why are you doing it? What exactly are you trying to find out?  Are you committed to improving or delivering real change based on what you find? Asking yourself these questions will help you identify if you are simply measuring – or measuring with intent and purpose.


At a minimum we always survey before and after with our target audience and maintain contact throughout a project through focus groups. More recently we have started to build apps that can monitor areas such as wellbeing in real time, linking back to possible social determinants both internal and environmental to find out exactly what we might influence.

By committing to this approach, we can see exactly the impact our intervention is having and importantly, it gives us the courage to change course if we identify something that isn’t working or can be improved.

In addition to the health benefit, we have also been able to measure the Social Return on Investment – working with Social economists to examine the trends in data before, during and after as we recently did with our Healthy Relationships project Change Up.

Change Up ROI

Source: University of Salford

Principle 3: Do it in partnership ‘with’ not ‘to’

How many Public Health campaigns do you see on billboards, bus shelters and TVs telling us what we need to do to improve our lives?

This may have some impact because of the sheer amount of investment they have had, however wouldn’t it be far more sustainable if our communities were to work together more to encourage positive habits and celebrate their wins together?


We have successfully tested numerous ways of building partnerships that deliver sustainability. In schools and workplaces we have identified, trained and empowered champions to lead their own teams of people. For our Mindfulness programme In Kent we have built a community of practice to inspire, share best practice and motivate others. The best social change campaigns always start from the ground upwards, not from the top down.

Principle 4: Share results to motivate and nudge

Here’s something else to ponder. How often do you receive feedback on the surveys you complete or feel part of any proposed solution that your survey response was supposed to inform?

The evidence shows that when we present information in a positive way, it is possible to change attitudes, perceptions and behaviours. Not only that, it encourages motivation and leadership from others, which is likely to be more sustainable than one off approaches.


We have successfully tested this over many years with over 180,000 people in areas such as tobacco, alcohol, drugs, violent crime and abusive relationships. By turning the problem on its head and presenting the positive majority behaviour IT IS possible to measurably change social norms (Perkins, Berkowitz et al, 2004). Having your audience deliver the message also creates motivation, credibility and the potential for something sustainable.

Further reading:

Harrop Fold Campaign

Principle 5: Make it fun!

Measuring doesn’t have to be boring. Making it fun will help to bring the crowds with you and by being switched on, you’re far more likely to get honesty versus those who are tuned out.


We tailor our approaches according to the audience. For young people we may use interactive voting handsets and humour. These are great for school assemblies for example.

At a recent Dementia conference, we did a mass consultation with coloured cards asking people to vote accordingly if they thought an idea was ‘belting or bobbins’ (my Lancashire roots). Making it fun is important.


Beltin or Bobbins

Principle 6: Re-imagine what excellence looks like within your team.

If we’re asking our population to re-imagine what success might look like for their school, workplace or community then first we have to do it for ourselves. For any new campaign you approach allow all voices in your organisation to be heard and don’t be afraid to try something new.


At Social Sense We have moved away from traditional “rear view mirror” evaluation approaches to testing, learning and improving as we go. Encouraging and accepting failure within a team is hard for risk averse leaders, however removing these shackles within your workforce does create new possibilities. Allow your team to re-imagine and watch them reward you!

For more information about our consultancy work visit:

For more information about our delivery programmes visit Social Sense Community:

By Gary Lovatt, MD Social Sense Ltd


  1. This report has some very powerful content and certainly partnerships and enjoyment are critical in terms of accurate measurement and analysis: if each partner is trained signed up to the same process there is so much potential here and thank you for promoting your work.

    1. Thank you for your comment Norma, it is much appreciated. We are really happy that you found it useful and hopefully it will inspire some interesting conversations and ideas about future working.

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