SROI study proves impact of Bikes in Schools

The Hikurangi Foundation, The Nature of Business and Social Ventures Australia have worked together to complete a compelling Social Return on Investment study for Bikes in Schools.

Bikes on Schools launch

When the Hikurangi Foundation met Paul McArdle in 2012, the Bikes in Schools founder was working with primary schools all over the country to provide pupils with access to a bike, bike helmet and specially designed bike tracks, within the school environment.

“From the very first school implemented, the clear and consistent message back from principals, teachers, parents and students has been the positive and instant impact of Bikes in Schools” says Paul. “In every instance we saw significant improvements in health, fitness, confidence, self-esteem, classroom focus and cycle skills.”

“In every instance we saw significant improvements in health, fitness, confidence, self-esteem, classroom focus and cycle skills.”

While we were impressed with the positive feedback from schools and their communities, what really attracted us to Bikes in Schools as a programme was its potential to scale, and impact on health and transport outcomes. In lower decile schools, Paul was finding that as few as 30 percent of pupils had regular access to a bike.

Before joining Hikurangi’s social enterprise incubator, Paul and his team of volunteers and partners were delivering their programme in up to five schools per year. Together, we’ve developed a new goal – to grow delivery to a hundred schools per year. We saw two prerequisites to attracting the level of funds needed to deliver a transformation of this size.

The first requirement was for Bikes in Schools to develop a scalable business model that will support sustainable growth. We developed the plan with input from experts across our Compass Network, particularly New Zealand Post, whose staff were instrumental in helping us design the ‘Bikes in Schools 2.0’ business model.

The second requirement was to demonstrate impact to potential investors and outcome purchasers. While anecdotal feedback and ever-growing demand validated our faith in Bikes in Schools, what we wanted was a comprehensive, objective assessment of the impact the programme was making. To that end, we contracted Compass Network member Dawn Baggaley from The Nature of Business to conduct a baseline Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis for us. With support and quality assurance from Simon Faivel of Social Ventures Australia (SVA), Dawn’s analysis has quantified what Bikes in Schools has changed, and by how much.

What is SROI?

SROI analysis enables organisations to evaluate their impact on stakeholders; put a price on the social and environmental value they create, and identify ways to improve performance relative to investments.

In practice, this internationally recognised methodology tells the story of how change is being created, places a value on that change and compares it with the cost of inputs required to achieve it in order to determine an investment ratio.

SROI analysis involves connecting with key stakeholders. This takes the form of interviews, surveys and other research methods. Casting the investigation wide and deep enables the researcher to paint a confident picture of what the programme has actually changed.

“In particular, we were conservative in our measurement, mindful of not over-claiming.”

Dawn was careful to ensure that the Bikes in Schools SROI was conducted in accordance with all seven SROI principles.

“I wanted to ensure that this was a very robust study that could stand up to scrutiny. In particular, we were conservative in our measurement, mindful of not over-claiming, and careful to only include that which was material.”

You can find out more about the methodology on the SROI Network website.

What have we found out about Bikes in Schools?

Overall, the analysis has provided Bikes in Schools with robust management information to determine how to develop the programme further. It has also created information that we can share with potential investors to provide a clear idea of the impact their investment would enable.

Broadly speaking, most of the benefits of Bikes in Schools were enjoyed by the kids themselves, who had fun, got fitter and healthier, experienced an increase in self-confidence and self-esteem and took part in other sporting activities.

Approximately 3,500 pupils participated in the Bikes in Schools programme over the three years measured, biking at least once a week. 46% of pupils cycled three times or more each week. We see this high participation as a reflection of how much kids simply enjoy cycling. Over 80% of pupils said they had fun and felt happier as a result of biking within school, and we see this as a key factor for the success of the overall programme.

46% of pupils cycled three times or more each week.

More specifically, the study found that Bikes in Schools has delivered a clear set of interrelated outcomes.  These included:

  • the development of healthier habits including increased fitness levels, confidence and stamina;
  • an increase in the pursuit of other sports
  • better concentration in the classroom
  • improved relationships with family and friends.

“Improvements to health and fitness are powerful impacts over time”, says Paul, “But the increase in the kids’ confidence and self-esteem is one of the things I find most rewarding about the Bikes in Schools programme.”

Bikes in Schools Theory of Change aka Programme Logic

Beyond the pupils themselves, Bikes in Schools also created measurable outcomes for other stakeholders:

  • principals and teachers of the schools with Bikes in Schools: experienced an increased sense of pride in their school and valued pupils who were fitter and healthier, more confident and better behaved in the classroom
  • funders/investors e.g. DHBs, Rotary, local trusts: valued pupils who are more physically active and develop a positive attitude towards exercise and feeling healthier
  • providers or funders of bike skills training: benefitted from being able to train pupils who had access to a bike and could develop these skills by being able to bike on a regular basis
  • BikeOn NZ and the Hikurangi Foundation: valued pupils having regular and equal access to a bike and developing bike skills as a means to changing long-term transport behaviours and delivering all other benefits mentioned.

“Our planning with principals and teachers focus on the clear range of positive opportunities and outcomes the project always delivers,” says Paul. “But after implementation and kids are riding regularly there always seems to be one or two wonderful additional student outcomes that nobody foresaw.”

On the cost side of the equation, the study found that a total of $610,000 was invested over the first three years of Bikes in Schools, delivering projects for 12 schools. Interestingly, 17 percent of the total investment ($103k) was cash put toward infrastructure and set up costs. The remaining 83 percent of investment was from non-monetary contributions. A large component of the non-monetary contributions was teachers’ time. While this time was not additional (i.e. the teachers didn’t need to work longer hours), it did represent time taken away from other activities, and is therefore material to the SROI calculations.

Finally, the analysis concluded that this investment of $0.61m created a Present Value of $2.38m in the three-year period from 2010 to 2012, resulting in an SROI ratio of 4:1.

Investment of $0.61m created a Present Value of $2.38m in the three-year period from 2010 to 2012, resulting in an SROI ratio of 4:1.

Paul, his volunteers and partners, and everyone at Hikurangi is delighted at the finding. While we have seen firsthand the impact Bikes in Schools has in the community, Dawn’s comprehensive work provides firm, authoritative proof that the entire team can be proud of.

“The analysis shows how effectively Bikes in Schools engages a wide range of pupils,” says Dawn. “It also demonstrates how quickly kids experience the benefits of cycling within their schools.”

If you’re keen to delve into the detail, take a look at the executive summary.

What did we learn about SROI?

  1. Access to stakeholders influences the outcomes you can measure. Engaging the various stakeholder groups and participants needs an investment of its own to get the volume and quality of data required. We had hoped to capture value created for families, but were unable to based on the challenge and cost of sitting down and interviewing enough parents to produce robust findings.
  2. A strong mentor or coach is crucial for completing a first-time study. The modeling required to determine outcomes and their proxies is a substantial undertaking. We were fortunate to have Simon Faivel of Social Ventures Australia on hand to help Dawn work through the complexity.
  3. A well-considered Theory of Change (or Programme Logic) is extremely valuable for any social enterprise. Developing a Theory of Change captures what value is created for who, and how. This forms the skeleton of a SROI, but also provides an excellent alignment and communication device for both within and outside the organisation.

What happens next?

Hikurangi will continue to work with Paul to attract investment from central government and other impact investors for the Bikes in Schools 2.0 business model. Our Executive Director Alex Hannant sees this SROI analysis as pivotal to the future of the Bikes in Schools programme.

“Robust, independent assessments are fundamental to how we intend to demonstrate the impact of the ventures in our incubator, and are key to unlocking the emerging social finance market. This SROI complements EIT’s findings earlier this year that Bikes in Schools reduces obesity, increases fitness, and improves pupil’s attention in class. Together, we’re confident that this evidence will help us unlock funding to scale Bikes in Schools up to our target of 100 schools per year.”

This SROI study will be used as a baseline of our earliest results that we might repeat at a later date to track development of impact and efficiency over time. Should investors need, we may also choose to extend this analysis into a forecast for future impact.

“We’re confident that this evidence will help us unlock funding to scale Bikes in Schools up to our target of 100 schools per year.”

While SROI has been used extensively internationally, there aren’t many examples of SROI analysis yet in New Zealand. Dawn’s work is a great contribution to the Bikes in Schools programme – and we’re looking forward to talking to impact investors about the data she has pulled together.

We’re also keen to increase awareness of the methodology in New Zealand – ideally we’ll be using it to measure the impact of more of the ventures we’re incubating as well.

To find out more about Bikes in Schools, check out their website, or drop me a line.


David ClearwaterDavid Clearwater is the Venture Manager at Hikurangi Foundation responsible for Bikes in Schools. The Hikurangi Foundation incubates early-stage social enterprise to find scalable solutions to pressing sustainability challenges. It also plays a broader role in the sector, working with partners across government, philanthropy, the business community and potential investors to grow understanding and develop pathways to support social enterprise in New Zealand.