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The Social and Economic Business Case Tool


The Social and Economic Business Case Tool helps produce a concise business case to inform the initial decision about a project — to answer “is this worth doing?” — and provide the business justification for doing it. It is sufficient to provide the Strategic Case for change for most projects, but has sufficient coverage that for smaller or simpler projects within public organisations it has enough to

support an investment decision.


The tool helps project owners to create a clear and robust project definition, achieve stakeholder engagement in the project, fully identify social and economic benefits, and create a comprehensive strategic project appraisal and investment case. It particularly helps with cross-agency projects and those where benefits (including “soft” ones) accrue to multiple stakeholders outside the investing organisation.

The tool helps to make the development of a business case an interactive management decision process as opposed to a drafting exercise, adding value to the investing organisation and improving the likelihood of project success. It is designed to be used by a facilitator working with key stakeholders in the problem and solution, notably the problem/project owner.

It is recommended that you obtain the services of a trained facilitator, obtain training yourself in its use, or at least read the guidance documents before using the tool in earnest. You must read and agree the End User Licence Agreement before using the tool.


Using the Tool


This tool can be used to develop a business case for any type of project, but it is specifically designed to deal with projects relating to social inclusion, particularly on helping disadvantaged people and communities, and builds in a number of features that help to construct business cases for such projects.
It provides prompts and checklists to ease and speed up the process of creating business cases. The outputs are designed to promote a robust analysis and discussion of the relative merits of alternative options to achieving your aims and objectives. It is also designed to get you through to achieving a clear strategic argument for your project in a short amount of time — to support an early milestone decision before proceeding to the more detailed stages of developing the case.  Whilst not essential, this tool is best deployed on the first occasion with the help of a trained facilitator. 


Case Studies:

The tool has been field tested on many projects across the country, including a community IT project in the City of London, a PC recycling project, e mentoring care leavers in North Lincolnshire, electronic health information services to ethnic groups in Birmingham and many others. For a review of some examples go to the section on Business Cases.


Access the business case tool


Structure of the Tool


The tool draws on HM Treasury’s best-practice ‘Five Case Model’ for the preparation of business cases.  This says a business case should have 5 sections:

  • The Strategic Case (focusing on rationale for the proposal)
  • The Economic Case (Public Value/ Value for Money)
  • The Commercial Case (Commercial viability)
  • The Financial Case (Affordability)
  • The Management Case (Programme and project management arrangements)

It also sets out the several iterations that a business case must go through to reflect the development stage of the proposal. The tool also draws on methods for assessing Social Return on Investment.
There are three Phases to developing the business case using this tool.

Phase 1 establishes the strategic and economic arguments for a deliverable project (but not its affordability). Phase 1 assesses how compelling the proposed project is, in relation to solving a specified problem, relative to alternative courses of action (including Do Nothing). This can be refined iteratively until there is a well defined project likely to attract an investment decision, before getting into detailed analytical work. Phase 1 uses relative scoring for speed and simplicity, as opposed to absolute values of costs and benefits, and presents the results in a visual manner better to communicate the relative merits of the options, and stimulate stakeholder engagement. The process can pause for a stop/go decision at this point.

Phase 2 briefly covers risk, dependencies, and project planning to the level necessary at this stage of the business case development (some of the management sub-case issues).

Phase 3 completes the case development, addressing the quantification of costs and benefits (for the economic case), and the affordability of the project to the investing stakeholders (the financial sub-case). Some example economic costs and benefits are provided.


Click here to view the Facilitator's Guide, business cases, evaluation reports, research papers and the beacons report.