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Assessing Social Benefits A Review of Methods

This report supports The City of Calgary's User Fees and Subsidies Review, which is a response to Council Priority 3.11 requesting an update to The City's user fee policies and related subsidy strategies. Specifically, this report investigates methodologies available to assess social benefits in terms of: (1) identifying impacts; (2) monetizing impacts; and (3) presenting impacts.

Twelve methods for assessing social benefits were reviewed. They are: Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA); Social Impact Assessment (SIA); Social Return on Investment (SROI); Social and Ethical Accounting, Auditing and Reporting (SEAAR); Blended Value; Heritage Framework; Cost Effectiveness Analysis (CEA); Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY); Cost of Illness; Willingness to Pay (WTP); Fair Calgary's Fairness Filter; and the Canadian Parks / Recreation Association's Benefits Catalogue.

Understanding these methods provides a conceptual basis and the literacy needed to understand decisions about the three key questions. Experiments, stakeholder consultation, surveys, and literature reviews are all suggested methodologies for identifying impacts. Advice ranges from identifying easily monetized impacts (e.g., Cost of Illness) to identifying impacts as widely as possible (e.g., Social Impact Assessment). The preferred method will depend on whether wide data – meaning difficult to identify and cumulative information – or narrow data – meaning easily identified and monetized information – are needed for the process of presentation.