Integrating ‘impact measurement’ into the program life-cycle
Investment strategies and social programs, that are evidence based, result oriented and culturally relevant.
A continuing function of systematic collection of data to determine the extent of progress and achievement of results, from social investments.
An objective assessment of impact investments, program implementation and impact outcomes, to assess the underlying reasons for achievement or non-achievement of results.
Balancing the call to prove with the need to improve
Evaluation is a management and learning tool for projects.
Evidence-based decision making is key
Performance monitoring should be based on outcomes.
Impact measurement is not a one-time event
Effective evaluation is an on-going process
Impact lies in the eyes of the beholder
Impact evaluation should adopt a participatory approach.
What is Social Impact Management?
The essence of Social Impact Management lies in the belief that ‘effective impact measurement is an ongoing process’. It entails planning and management of social impact investments, spanning design, implementation and measurement. The concept can be applied by all organisations contributing to social change, i.e: Government bodies, NGOs, Corporate Social Responsibility departments and impact investors; to measure, manage, and optimize social impact. Impact investments broadly serve three main purposes, i.e: Act to avoid harm (risk management) Benefit stakeholders (pursuing sustainable development goals) Contribute to solutions (addressing pressing social or environmental problems).
Impact management is an ongoing practice of measuring and improving social investment outcomes, to reduce negative and increase positive impacts. Social Impact Management examines the implications of organisation strategies, evaluated in terms of their impacts upon quality of life of communities, the wider socio-economic repercussions in society; seeking to hone the potential of the social responsibility of business. The process manages social impacts throughout the whole project lifecycle. It works as a management and learning tool for projects.
Importance of Social Impact Management
Social Impact Management provides a coherent framework for strategic planning and management, based on learning and accountability. It improves effectiveness of social investments and service delivery, by defining realistic expected results and targets. Social Impact Management estimates the social impacts that might occur during implementation and identifies proactive measures to respond to change across the lifecycle of developments. The process helps in integrating lessons learnt into management decisions and reporting performance, as well as forming partnerships to attain shared outcomes. Social impact consulting enables ‘social impact companies’ to consider ‘social impact’ throughout the life of the project to enable efficient mitigation and management of both- negative and positive, intended and unintended impacts.
A Social Impact Management Plan (SIMP) provides the private sector a framework to identify, assess and manage social impacts in their control and sphere of responsibility. It gives a deep contextual understanding of social issues, the target group and expected impacts. It builds up a database against which to monitor and assess a program’s feasibility, progress and effectiveness – during implementation and after it is complete. While focusing on the importance of Corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, a SIMP adopts a holistic approach to social impact by examining the broader implications of organisational operations.
Characteristics of Social Impact Management
An organisation which has evaluation embedded in its culture, emphasizes values of transparency, accountability and continuous improvement. An understanding of impact evaluation and its importance across all levels of personnel is the first of a series of actions which will enable organisations to link impact evaluation to their social missions, and prioritise impact measurement .Monitoring and Evaluation is an integral element of program management and should be strategically planned in terms of investment strategies, implementation, resource deployment (man-power and budgets) and timelines. To demonstrate a strong commitment to evaluation, organisations should focus on key drivers like building internal capabilities of teams, decision making processes and structures. Impact evaluations should be planned and conducted in ways that enhance the utilization of both the findings and of the process itself to inform decisions and improve performance.
A well-developed ToC ensures efficiency in planning, implementation and evaluation of development projects. It is a comprehensive methodology used by the not-for- profit, social impact business, impact investing and Government sectors to promote socially responsible investing. It is mapped in an ‘Outcome Framework’ which defines long-term goals for social change and then maps backward the activities that must be undertaken to achieve and sustain the desired change. A Theory of Change is a visual representation of the change that social investments and programs will make on the ecosystem it operates in. It illustrates the background and context of social investments, closely examining the assumptions and justifications to link impact to investment decisions, while preparing the base for collecting and using data to understand and manage the social impact of those investments.
An M&E framework should outline the scope and objectives of social investments and investment strategies, while defining the data and information needs matched to the methods and sources of information. It should outline the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in contributing to building the impact evaluation findings, while putting in place a strategy for using the results. Finally, it should enable a good understanding of the capacities and conditions needed to ensure socially responsible investing.
A good M&E framework depends on rigour of all components with regards to sample selection, research tools, reliability of indicators, quality of data collection, depth of analysis, as well as reporting and utilisation. It ensures enhanced social performance, reducing social and environmental risks and conflicts and builds trust through better communication.
A data management system enables regular process (activity) monitoring to track the use of inputs and resources, and investment strategies, measure program progress, as well as glean insights. It should assess contexts in which social organisations and corporate social responsibility companies operate, and constantly document beneficiary perceptions, including their participation, treatment, access to resources and their overall experience of change. Data systems will aid organisations to move towards a developed culture of statistical literacy, and adopt a more sophisticated approach to data production, use, analytics, visualization, and communication.Teams are able to easily collect data in a standardised manner, such that various datasets (new and legacy) are able to interface. The system should be built keeping last-mile focus, with multi-lingual support, allowing for implementation staff and communities to share stories, experiences; reporting through text, photos, and audio.
How to create an impact management strategy?
The impact management service offered by 4th Wheel caters to the implementation of Government schemes and programs, CSR activities, NGO programs, etc. An Impact Management Strategy enables organisations to move from compliance of evaluation and reporting, to creating value from the process of impact evaluation. It lays the foundation for articulating a change theory model that includes external influences and takes cognisance of the social context within which social investments are made.
Stakeholder mapping is a collaborative impact management service. It involves research, debate, and discussion that draws from multiple perspectives to determine a key list of stakeholders and their influences and needs, across the entire organisational spectrum. Mapping is broken down into listing relevant groups, organizations, and people; understanding stakeholder perspectives and interests, visualizing relationships to program objectives, ranking stakeholder relevance and identifying related issues. This process results in an organisation leading good practice in social impact management, by integrating stakeholder voices into decisions.
Needs assessment/baseline studies aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals, put in place the building blocks of an effective monitoring system, improve governance and service delivery, and drive progress towards the shared objective of sustainable development. It builds up a database against which to monitor and assess an activity’s feasibility, progress and effectiveness – during implementation and after the program is complete.
This crucial impact management service maps specific indicators of programs, under each SDG, based on the global indicator framework developed by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators.
Investors with credible impact investing practices share learnings where possible to enable others to learn from their experience as to what actually contributes to social and environmental benefit, and a process evaluation allows for that.
This exercise helps to assess processes to learn from the implementation experience, and identify gaps and successes, which can be used to sustain, strengthen and scale social investments. Areas of enquiry relate to implementation mechanisms, project management structures and systems, human resource development mechanisms, internal analysis and reflection mechanisms.
Evaluation studies should provide rich quantitative and qualitative data to understand the impact performance of different enterprises and social investments against the SDGs. Findings should be based on metrics that relate to the quantity and quality of effects. Data should be available in year on year formats for comparisons and be up to date. It should involve contextual data analysis, against targets, with timelines and trends, against benchmarks. While providing an evidence base for causal linkages, it requires the development of counterfactual, using control or comparison groups to measure what activity might have happened otherwise. Rigorous evaluation methods include Social Return on Investment (SROI), Quasi-experimental designs, Longitudinal and Cross Sectional Studies and Social Audits.