This is the principal question behind social auditing, which is one of the primary functions of the Grants and Review Boards (GRBs).
The GRB is an independent Jamati Institution established in the Ismaili Constitution with the objective to:
- evaluate budgeted expenditures against stated objectives and strategies;
- ensure the proper application of resources and compliance with systems and procedures; and
- monitor the disbursement of funds and carry out periodic financial, management and social audits.
Social audits examine the impact that programmes and services have on beneficiaries. Recently, 19 GRB members from North America, Europe, Africa, Middle East, Central and South Asia, and the Far East gathered at the Ismaili Centre in Dubai to complete four days of intensive training in social auditing.
The programme, which has been developed by international subject matter experts, is a hybrid of online classes and in-person training focused on a case-based teaching strategy providing real-life examples.
Jamila Somani, social audit training facilitator, said that in addition to asking the question of how a programme or service leaves people better off, they must also ask themselves: “Given the broad range of potential impacts, how do we decide what areas the audit will focus on?”
The answer lies in several domains that the AKDN has identified as focus areas with a high impact on quality of life, including education, livelihoods and access to finance, health, food and nutrition, social inclusion, and housing and habitat.
“If we were looking at a programme that supports the domain of education, for example, we could examine how access and attainment left the individual better off years after completion,” Jamila explained. “Did it support them to fulfill their goals? Did it inspire and prepare them to achieve their career aspirations? How did educational attainment support them and their families' to improve their quality of life? And, more importantly, what does that improved quality of life look like now?”
As part of the audit methodology, GRBs identify specific findings and make recommendations to the institutions to address programme gaps. These types of audits help the institutions understand if and how the work they are doing, is in fact, meeting their long-term goals and objectives.
As a next step, training participants will launch pilot social audits in their respective geographies. Over the coming years, GRBs around the world will continue to work with institutions to understand and drive impact of programmes and services by conducting more social audits and training additional volunteers.