Ahhmmm…. got to tell you I am excited.
In the past weeks, I have had the opportunity to meet many professionals virtually, especially thanks to our lovely brother LinkedIn. I found myself in a process of learning, that I missed so much! well, enough with the introductions, let’s start thinking (-:
Just a short summary to get you to the point I am in now, in case that you did not read (you missed!) or do not remember (that’s fine (: )…
My first post on this issue dealt with the hard question – what are nonprofits for…and the essential need to connect doing to impact. My second post in this regard dealt with impact measurement, and my suggestion for three elements in metrics: Usefulness, Friendliness, and standardization.
I have got lots of feedback, and it led me to a cross-way:
One group of people maintained the operational aspect, as the main weakness. The other group agreed on the need of impact measurement, however everyone is kinda not sure what is exactly the thing needed to complete the mission.
The Operations Aspect
I would like to take it one step ahead, and correct me if I am wrong, the operations-minded people are usually dealing with something we can touch, or at least can see impact simply just by looking what the organization does – water, agriculture, farms, vaccines, you name it. The impact measurement in this type of organizations is a short and sweet ROI analysis. Efficiency, effectiveness, benchmark, and performance measurement are relatively easy to conduct, as well as goals and objectives setting.
Another important suggestion was to collaborate and cooperate, and even amalgamate organizations that do the same/similar work. I agree with this way of thinking but would like to ask you managers – will you work on your ego and let another organization to work with you or instead of you? Think about it. If it works – there may be great, extremely successful models of business supply chain management, which employ this attitude – more for less – by a chain of organizations. Phrase it like this:
The bottom-line is the VALUE profit. As long as there are organizations which may do the same, or even better than your organization – the real impact will be achieved by working together, and collaborate. It also saves you money, and reduces costs!
I know it is the hard part of managers’ ego, but probably one of the realistic ways to save the sector alive in terms of impact.
In short, the question to ask yourself is this – What is your organization’s unique selling proposition? What is your competitive advantage on others? What is the special value your organization creates? You supposed to have a very good answer to this question.
An additional note in this regard, is Collective Impact. Someone referred me to the collective impact website. I researched it, and browsed the web, and I must compliment them for doing the first operations step – creating coalitions and collaborations in order to increase the impact. However, this is only the first necessary step. The sector is getting shrunk, and will continue this trend, therefore there is a vital need to amalgamate or eliminate ineffective programs, not just collaborate.
The Social Value Impact Aspect
The problem of impact comes to life again when we deal with the social hot potato, and you know what?! I am dealing with it!
There is certainly a broad agreement on the need, although I must admit that I am still shocked to see huge foundations refuse to measure themselves (ego and power issues??)… But let’s put it aside. Just another small reference – social enterprises are a relatively small part of the nonprofit sector. I will never call them the “forth sector”, because they are not. I will never agree that they act differently than the third sector, they are value-driven, and this is the crucial aspect. They DO NOT care about money more than value, and DO NOT care about profit and value the same way. Therefore they DO NOT have double bottom-line, but one, and the last is very similar to the pure nonprofits. I can count few real social enterprises, but they will be again the ones we can touch – bakery, restaurant, agriculture, cafe, and the like.
Show me one social services enterprise… it ain’t exist, because it is impossible, and here comes the social impact measurement to help us.
So, based on my criteria – usefulness, friendliness, and standardization, and since I got no criticism on that (-: , let’s start.
I did not define Standardization last time, so here it is: in my opinion is needs to be simple. The metrics should include up to 4 core elements, which will be relevant across the sector. By this, there will be an option to compare between one organization to another. There is an option to add as many as indicators you like and want, and it won’t harm the metrics, but will give your organization the specific information you are looking for.
So, this is my review, happened somehow to be very small and narrowed…
I rank tools in 1-3 scale. 1=low, 2=medium, 3=high. Hence, the highest total score is 9.
I try to keep it as simple as possible, so do not rank 1-10 or something like that.
An important note! If your organization does not have a work plan which included vision, goals, and objectives, you cannot employ social impact measurement at this time. You MUST define the above in advance. Do not know how to do it? Drop in my post on setting goals, and keep up the good work!
I love this measure, however and in short, this does not apply in many social services and education nonprofits. If you are dealing with employment or any other outcomes which involve money, this may be the measure for you.
Usefulness (1): Applies to a narrow type of organizations (usually employment services, financial assistance, micro finance, and similar)
Friendliness (1) If you do not learn it thoroughly, and gain lots of knowledge – you probably won’t be able to conduct a reliable SROI analysis
Standardization (2) This part gets high score, because lots of research has been done, however there is no option to apply it broadly enough.
Total score: 4/9, 44%/100%
GRI / IRIS
I like the business attitude. This metrics will not save your life, but definitely will give you a way to benchmark your organization. This tool is used by many for-profits in order to monitor their performance, so I would rank it as the following:
Usefulness (1): it gets a low score here, because I am not sure how it is going to help many organizations in their day-to-day management in terms of measuring social outcomes. However some organizations might fall under the suggested social objectives, so I suggest to check it out.
Friendliness (2): the tool seems to be highly recommended and highly used by a variety of organizations. It does not gain the 3 points, because it does not fit every organization.
Standardization (2): you win the entire pot here. The tool is absolutely standardized, and you may feel free to compare your organizational performance to similar organizations in the industry. It is a huge advantage. I ranked it 2, because it does not apply in every field.
Total score: 5/9, 55%/100%
Social Impact Bonds (SIB)
I like the idea of social finance, because it makes much sense. It really builds a reputation for impact investing. In short, the system is designed to invest money in social projects, in order to PREVENT problems from reoccurring in the future (such as second-generation issues, recidivism, unemployment in specific sectors, etc.). The model briefly works by this: funding is given > intervention is made > evaluation of outcomes is conducted > in case of success (i.e. less recidivism, more employment) the government returns money to the investors. Even though I like the idea, I have no clue regarding the metrics and indicators they are using in order to evaluate social programs… it does not seem standardized or friendly, but it is just my outsider opinion.
Moreover, in my opinion, the social impact bonds model seems to fit to a narrow type of outcomes, kinda similar to SROI.
Total score: Unknown!
My list is much shorter than expected. I reviewed over 10 tools and methodologies, but did not like them at all, so why to mention them?
With that said, when it comes to social services and education, and other soft, hard-to-touch outcomes, the measures and indicators become useless. No usefulness, no friendliness, no standardization. Nothing helps. Therefore we must agree that there is another way to measure, and you know what?! it is not the kind, the gentle one… it is about achieving your objectives, measuring your VALUE. It is that simple.
Your objectives include “improvement of students’ grades”?
Show the improvement, between the beginning of the year and the end.
Your objectives include “women’s empowerment”?
Define what empowerment is, let’s say, they will be more responsible for their day-to-day tasks.
Show they have changed their behavior/attitudes.
Do not use excuses like “they are happy”, “their self esteem is higher”, “I feel it”… these are NOT your objectives, and therefore not the social value you wanted to create.
You will probably need a professional to help you with evaluation, it is impossible to do it alone, if you are not having a certain set of skills and knowledge (p.s. – yes, you may contact me if you need help with evaluations matters… (-: )
My next post in this topic will summarize my insights, and suggest a short-clear way to evaluate social impact; and yes – I am open for your comments and knowledge – just contact me and let me know.
I will be happy to get your comments, likes and shares. In the meantime… live beautifully (-: