Assessing and demonstrating positive social change: From inputs and outputs to outcomes, impact and expert opinion (part 2/2)

Impact measurement continues to be a hot topic in the ‘for-purpose’ sector. Some mandate that impact measurement must be underpinned by robust quantitative data whilst others prefer to speak about demonstrating impact through case studies and qualitative insights. The most recent wave of impact assessment practitioners also emphasise the need of quantitative and qualitative insights to be supported by expert opinion. In recognition that impact measurement is an evolving beast that is typically difficult and complex, we’re sharing our two cents on how to gauge your positive social impact.

This blog is the second of a two-part series.

Creating an impact framework

An impact framework will help to ensure you collect information that tells you what difference your organisation is making. Designing this framework will involve deciding what data to collect, the level of rigour of evidence you need, and how to go about collecting this data. It is important that this is done in a practical way.

Here is the process that your organisation can work through to build an effective framework to measure and demonstrate the right things in the right way:

STEP 1: Map your theory of change

Start with your final goal and work backwards to develop a theory of change. This provides clarity, revealing the causal links between what you do and what you are trying to achieve. It can also produce a compelling narrative to communicate the impact you are seeking and your role in achieving it.

STEP 2: Prioritise what you measure

Prioritise the most important outcomes in your theory of change and focus on tracking and communicating those.

STEP 3: Select your sources, tools and industry experts

Decide what data you need and find tools or data sources to capture it. You may find an existing tool or data source, or you may need to develop one. It can also be helpful to locate existing evidence for the causal links in your theory of change.

Identify and decide whom is best placed to provide an informed opinion on how the impact of your efforts align to and/or contribute towards sector trends and on driving the positive social change that you seek.

Final thoughts on assessing and demonstrating social impact

An impact framework can be thought of as an organising and translating layer between your strategic plan and your impact data, as well being a conduit to and from your communications and engagement channels.

An impact framework serves to:

  • Articulate your organisation’s social impact focus areas in easy to understand and resonant language;
  • Define social outcomes that your organisation is aiming to achieve against specified time periods;
  • Define metrics that will be used to communicate progress against these outcomes;
  • Sit side-by-side and enhance your efficiency or business value measurement (providing a full picture of performance);
  • Deliver a gap analysis against existing data collection activities and reporting to support future data collection activities; and
  • Support engagement and communications activities with clear demonstration of social impact, including for annual reports, Board updates and other forms of communication.
  • Identify relevant industry experts to explain and support how your efforts fit in with and/or aligns to the broader sector trends.

The framework is not intended to create additional work, duplicate existing reporting or change your existing strategic plan – it serves to connect a range of existing inputs and outputs to better demonstrate impact. As an iterative and two-way framework, it is not designed to be static but to evolve over time as your organisation changes and builds its capacity to report on impact, identify gaps and work toward more sophisticated measures of impact.

Please reach out to learn more about how Spark Strategy can assist you in measuring the social impact of your organisation, initiatives and/or strategies. We would love to hear from you at info@sparkstrategy.com.au about what has and has not worked for you in the measurement of social impact.

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