There is no doubt that we need to measure social impact. Social impact measurement shows if your programmes and projects are working and if you are indeed creating the change you are claiming. Investors, funders, consultants and the social organizations themselves are aligned on this point, although how to measure is still up for discussion. There is some agreement regarding the process to follow, but we still lack standardization in terms of the specific tools and frameworks to implement. The good news is that there are several useful resources and handbooks that help these different actors better measure impact.
However, impact measurement per se can be an idle mechanism if used only for reporting purposes. When writing a grant report, did you ever wonder if the foundation providing the grant actually made use of the data you worked hard in providing? We need to move beyond measuring to managing impact so that the strategic decision making process of foundations, impact investors, public institutions and social organizations become truly impact-driven.
The truth is that impact measurement is a very important step in a broader cycle of impact management. If you dedicate time and effort as well as valuable resources to measure your impact, it is vital that the learnings of your reports are used to create strategic decision making for the programme/ project you are evaluating.
Impact measurement reports should also not be hidden in a file. They are an important asset for strategic reflection and, properly analysed, they can create improved programmes/ projects. Therefore, an impact measurement process is only complete if it includes impact management because it allows you to understand which effects are material and require further action.
You can analyse your negative impacts and create strategies to decrease or eliminate them. You can also improve the impact you are creating by analysing the fundamentals of the programme/ project and the outcomes they are generating for each of its beneficiaries. This assessment allows you to refine your approach and ensure important positive outcomes are being delivered to those that really need them. It also allows you to improve the effect that is delivered to each of the beneficiaries, creating more targeted and strategic activities.
So how can you move to impact management? If you are not sure how and when to start, we invite you to join us at the 3SConference: Manage for Impact that will take place in Barcelona, on the 27th and 28th of September 2018. We will reflect together, as in any good impact management cycle. The Conference is organized by Stone-Soup and Tiime and ESADE is the Strategic Partner and host of the event.
Cláudia Pedra and Lisa Hehenberger
PS. Also check out Lisa’s article in American Journal of Evaluation’s Special Forum called Where Impact Measurement Meets Evaluation “Moving Towards Impact-adjusted Financial Returns”: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1098214018778899
Lisa Hehenberger is Lecturer at the Department of Strategy and General Management in ESADE and Director of the ESADE Entrepreneurship Institute (EEI)
Cláudia Pedra is the managing partner and co-founder of Stone Soup Consulting