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Measure What Matters

Measuring social impact is not easy! It's often a challenge to find good indicators of impact, and to isolate the effect of a social venture's efforts and the resulting positive impact. There are time and cost constraints, too. How do you balance short term versus long term metrics, as well as the costs to effectively measure them?

One thing is certain -- investors, board members, partners, customers and other stakeholders will want to understand how your social venture is doing.  Are you achieving your mission?  What indicators will you use to determine if you’re making strides in that direction?

 

Overview Resources

For starters, here are several resources to help you think broadly about performance metrics, and indicators of successful outcomes, not just outputs:

 

Frameworks

There are many different approaches to measuring social impact. Here are a few that you may find helpful:

 

Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS)

IRIS is a catalog of terms and definitions that can be used to describe the social, environmental, and financial performance of an organization. Developed by the Rockefeller Foundation, Acumen Fund and B-Lab, it was launched in 2009 in conjunction with the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN). IRIS provides standard terminology that has been agreed upon in the impact investing community so that the performance metrics can be transparent and comparable across ventures.

 

Root Capital Global Positioning System (GPS) for Measuring Impact

The Root Capital GPS uses a client-centric impact evaluation approach, which is practical and cost-effective for their purposes, but less objective than an experimental evaluation.

 

Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS)

GIIRS is a comprehensive rating system for social and environmental impact, analogous to S&P credit risk ratings. GIIRS leverages IRIS performance metrics to generate its ratings.

 

Learning for Action Group Evaluation Framework

This document provides a primer on different evaluation framework approaches, and gives a concise blueprint for examining output and outcomes for social impact.

Additional Resources

3IEInternational Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) provides solutions to critical development problems by funding high quality impact evaluations. The focus of 3ie's works is to ensure that impact evaluations translate into policy change and improve people's lives.