------- the art and science of measuring and managing impact --------
( This site is in the process of being moved to another location )
Measurement of impact is the key challenge of the social impact sector.
It is clear that data will play a central role in tackling the challenge of understanding, measuring and guiding impact. However, data is meaningless without the models within which it is applied. Our thesis is that we need new models through which to understand and express impact, and, that new technology solutions are available to radically change our approach.
So far, the models that have been used are the conventional financial models from the for-profit sector, slightly adjusted to include impact.
However, measuring impact is a new 'thing'. It is an intangible. And the measurement of intangibles hasn't yet been solved even in the for-profit sector.
In addition, the complexity of understanding the causation of impact creates uncertainty about the impact.
There are qualitative ways of looking at data now that are particularly applicable to impact data. Even without knowing the cause(s) of impact, we can look at the key players and the pathways of impact. Having done so, we can deduce leverage points.
An added challenge to measurement is the additional cost that the enterprise must incur. Generally speaking, the metrics that an enterprise needs to measure for impact purposes, are not the same ones needed for business operations. Therefore, impact measurement adds an additional burden.
For example, a company that delivers food to the homeless could measure its operational efficiency by looking at the cost of delivery per pound of food. However, that metric is not useful for measuring impact.
Social impact enterprises need to be instrumented for impact measurement. We realize, though, that what we measure, we see, we control and we manage -- in this way, the metrics that we measure become an integral driver of the future direction of the enterprise.
This critical inter-dependency means that metrics are not mere bystanders; they are not merely the "temperature" of the enterprise, they actually change the temperature of the enterprise.
Therefore, impact measurement must take a stance. It must choose to be pro-business.
A social enterprise’s logic model is a powerful tool. It is able to embody the enterprise's vision, its methodology and its process for learning. The last of these being the most significant. As the enterprise proceeds on its mission to effect change, it keeps a watch on all the blocks that constitute its logic model. If the desired results are not seen from any of those blocks, it can tweak its logic model, or even pivot to a different logic model that will allow it to deliver its mission more effectively.