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Actionable Impact Measurement and Management Guide
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Impact measurement and management have evolved with time. Now it is not just about reporting and evaluation, but the overall management of the program or project that is using impact data and management to make informed decisions for continuous improvement. This is called impact management.

Impact Measurement and Management are two sides of the coin for organizations looking to raise impact capital and continuously scale social impact through continuous learning and improvement.



"As an impact investor, I want to learn from impact measurement and management but isn't  impact data collection and aggregation expensive?"
The answer? It doesn't need to be. Even though it is a common belief among mission-driven organizations that social impact measurement is too cost-intensive, let us see why we can not get away from the need for impact data management tools and how instead of postponing it, we can invest in it. And time is right now as finally, we can leverage new-age technology.
Impact investing has grown to $6.57 trillion in the U.S. While in any other industry, such large funding cannot skip measurement, we see little evidence of true impact measurement in impact investment today!
While the interest in impact investment is going mainstream, we are likely to repeat the fiasco of the Microfinance industry that took place a decade ago without a real understanding of the impact.
Though there is substantial evidence from international development agencies requiring to dedicate at least 5% of the budget towards Measurement & Evaluation (2011) and funders ask for better impact evidence during their grantmaking process, a closer look at them shows a completely different picture. Aid agencies, foundations, and impact funds define success metrics and receive regular Excel or PDF-based results. Based on our interviews with different organizations, we have found that many regulatory projects collect results from program agencies mostly for compliance reasons. Many of them don't have the tools to aggregate data to provide a comprehensive view. In fact, the situation is not any different for foundations or impact funds. Impact investing is still associated with financial return with a simple socially responsible label.
Also, while many corporates are starting to report sustainability through standards such as GRI, IRIS, GRESB, etc., their primary goal remains limited to a good PR instead of a systematic change. Most measurement in impact investment is limited to reporting for investors; in foundations, CSR programs, and international M&E projects, it is still limited to reporting basic performance indicators.


Design Impact  Management - Actionable Use Case


Change is Emerging 

The biggest pushback comes from a common catchphrase used very liberally: "impact measurement is expensive!". Despite this common misbelief, there are thousands of social impact or M&E practitioners often building custom excel based frameworks again and again. Hiring such services has become an easy path for most organizations. But instead, they could invest in a system that can truly reduce the cost of measurement since nowadays we have some fairly affordable technologies in the market.
However, due to lack of knowledge and evangelization of these new affordable tools, today's social sector is spending more than $230M (estimated considering US-based foundations and impact funds) plus over $1.5B (estimated considering US-based nonprofits) impact measurement.
Even though cloud-based platform vendors such as Salesforce give away their technology in the social sector, most organizations do not have the resources to successfully leverage the tool's power. 1.6 M of nonprofits needs a more affordable and flexible data collection technology. The last five years have seen a massive amount of change with the potential to democratize or simplify data collection across the board. New age impact cloud solution can complete the data collection cycle with a clean, constant, and integrated data pipeline to save time and money.
To see other data collection tools, review Is Impact Data Collection Changing?

Impact Investing Ecosystem

We see that social development starts with an individual donor, impact investment, or philanthropic organization based on our personal journey. So, money for impact measurement and management should also come from the same source. In other words, if they are interested in moving the needle, they must have the ability to understand the collective impact - whether they are foundations, impact funds, high-impact nonprofits, or international development agencies. Some private capital and foundation investments in civic technology like Nextdoor,, Waze, etc., are a good start for civic engagement. However, none of these Impact Investing have invested in the tools that allow them to systematically share their goals, collect their results, and drive change. 
We have invested in research to develop great methodologies and standards of metrics (like SDGs, IRIS, GRI, ESG, etc.). Now is the time to leverage new-age technology to define, collect, aggregate, measure, and manage the change. 


What is Impact Measurement Management?

Social Impact Management is a process of defining the positive and negative effects of enterprises and investors' actions on people and the planet and then figuring out ways to mitigate the negative and maximize the positive impact. 
There is a growing need to improve both Impact Measurement and Impact Management both.  Because most organizations are still figuring out how to measure impact, impact management remains of utmost importance. It can help: 
  • From counting “what” happens to understand “why” things happen
  • Understanding how the “why” informs “what“ is important to measure
  • Collaboration amongst stakeholders to select indicators appropriate to inform your decision making

What is Impact Management?

Impact management is the new term emerging for impact measurement and management. This term is used by socially-driven organizations like impact investors, social enterprises, etc. to measure and manage the impact of their programs and initiatives. Doing impact management in the right way can help organizations make informed decisions and maximize their impact.


How to create an impact measurement and management strategy?

Impact measurement management is a continuous process, a continuous loop of understanding the people and planet, setting financial and social goals, and defining intentions and constraints - to be able to deliver and improve impact. Impact management, as described by the Impact Management Project, has five dimensions.
The following questions will guide organizations to start to improve positive impact and to prevent the negative.
  • 01 What is the material?
  • 02 How significant are the effects?
  • 03 Who is affected?
  • 04 What would happen anyway?
  • 05 What are the risks?
What will affect or be affected by the activities of an organization's intervention and/or what will affect that organization's overall performance? These are the material elements to be aware of.
Thinking about the extent to which a program or intervention is expected to have specific outcomes, it can be useful to map the significance of those outcomes for the communities/beneficiaries involved.
There should be a clear understanding of a) whom the different stakeholders are for any given program, activity, or intervention and b) how the execution of those activities is intended to affect those individuals or groups.
Crucial and often overlooked is that if your organization or intervention didn't exist, something would have happened anyway. Your impact needs to be assessed against that scenario to really understand the depth of the impact you created.
Understanding the risks enables you to put in place processes to mitigate those risks and therefore be pretty prepared should such scenarios occur. This protects you and also the impact you seek to create for your beneficiaries.


Its all about understanding holistic impact and impact risks
Did you know that of nearly 500 international companies surveyed in 2017, 62% of them included the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their reporting? Furthermore, 37% prioritized the SDGs in their strategy, and 79% of those companies chose SDG 13 Climate Action.
What's most intriguing is that nearly 3 out 10 set quantitative targets and linked those to their societal impact. (Source: SDG Reporting Challenge 2017)
In other words, many companies are starting to align with UN Sustainable Development Goals. And yet, are they moving beyond simple impact washing?
It remains hard to tell because while there are multiple impact frameworks, standards, and tools available today, most organizations still struggle to understand and manage their impact.
Millennials are the fastest-growing generation and are much more impact savvy than previous generations. They are asking hard questions beyond the simple "how many people did you impact. And, on the funder (investor) side, they have a unique understanding of the nuances of impact portfolio composition.
One of the biggest challenges facing private equity, corporate, impact investors, and other asset owners is how to build a portfolio that defines and generates true impact. There is an ongoing effort by Impact Management Project (IMP) aligned with TONIIC T-100 and OCED group to solve this challenge.
According to Impact Management Project, "Asset owners are increasingly interested in the impact of their investments on society and the environment. Against this backdrop of growing interest from asset owners, asset managers are increasingly looking to assess and communicate the effects of investments on people and planet."
For Asset owners, there is no single linear impact management process; the process is iterative, with different entry points. The time has come to apply a flexible approach that allows anyone to select and cross-link any standards like SDGs, IRIS, GRI, and Custom Metrics for their asset/investment/grantee. At the heart of the problem, Impact Management Project (IMP) is defining what’s called Portfolio Impact Categories, Assessment, and overall Portfolio Analysis tool.
This process is essential to asset owners because it catalyzes in-depth feedback from each asset. At SoPact, during the last three years, we have been experimenting and collecting feedback from hundreds of social sector companies, working with multiple standard bodies, and bringing in our experience to solve the challenge of building a similarly flexible integration of the entire impact ecosystem.
We have built the SoPact Impact Cloud to do just that. It simplifies all the impact jargon using a simple impact search engine, aligning Theory of Change (TOC) with the processes put forth at the Impact Management Project (IMP).
Impact Cloud also enables a simpler metrics selection process, aligned with Sustainable Development Goals, IRIS, GRI, and even custom metrics based on your impact goals and targets.
In Uniting the Impact Ecosystem: A Call for End-to-End Impact Management, we introduce the players in the impact ecosystems, all of which can benefit from our cloud-based solution, from Asset Owners to Asset Managers and Assets themselves.
Impact Measurement and Management Platform
Impact investors, Grantmakers and Social Impact Accelerators
Support impact portfolio construction for every client with a disciplined impact management process. Demonstrate environmental and social impact, in addition to financial returns based on IRIS, GRI, SDG, or other standards. Impact Strategy designed based on GIIN IRIS+, Impact Management Project, Sustainable Development Goals SDG, and SDG Impact Certification.


Reference framework for impact management

Impact Management project defines five dimensions of impact for each of its effects on people or planet: intended and unintended, positive and negative. For each effect, the level of performance is evaluated for all five dimensions. 

The real challenge is that the investor should use a data-driven approach to assess impact. This is where Impact Cloud provides a flexible foundation of cross-reference services that allows the evaluator to assess results based on external and internal data.

What are the 5 Dimensions of Impact?






Impact Management Project Example

Integrating Investor’s Impact Matrix

As investors gather better asset-based evaluation, the next task is to map their existing portfolio and then, over time, a transition that portfolio to be impactful in the way that best suits their intentions and constraints.

What is impact management?

The ultimate goal is to define a portfolio that maps all the assets that help communicate two important questions:
1. Impact allocation for a portfolio that communicates composition by instruments and sector composition and defines impact metrics of a portfolio. Such impact metrics can help clearly communicate a real impact footprint. For example, €220 billion portfolios of a pension fund may achieve a much lower impact (because it focuses on avoiding negative impact) compared to the $10M portfolio of a family foundation focused on creating a solution(s).
2. Impact investors are now asking to provide evidence of how their capital creates an impact or how they benefit from the stated impact. This has been often a challenging subject as often the outcome of impact investors are not aligned with an investee. Usually, they do not speak the same impact language (e.g., defined outcomes) and often do not trust results/data collected from an investee.

Creating an impact data pipeline from enterprise to asset owners through Impact ID   describes how we can solve such outcome alignment and data trust issues between asset owners, asset managers, and assets.


How Impact Funds Collect Results Today?

Private equity impact funds that often invest into the impact assets often have two types of investments. 

Asset investment:

Often invested into property or large assets such as solar farms, affordable housing programs etc in developed countries.  The challenges of aggregating large assets is that often investee may not be motivated to provide all the results in return to the investment. While this may be initial hurdle impact asset manager can initially collect results and self-report, but as they grow they can work with assets to directly 



Asset investment

Often invested into the property or large assets such as solar farms, affordable housing programs, etc., in developed countries.  The challenge of aggregating large assets is that often investee may not be motivated to provide all the results in return to the investment. While this may be an initial hurdle impact asset manager can initially collect results and self-report, but as they grow, they can work with assets to directly

Social Impact Investment:

Social impact investment often focuses on social impact outcomes underrepresentation, under privilege, and emerging market.  While investors and entrepreneurs often agree on key indicators to measure social impact, their data aggregation system is often weak.

Impact Management Software


  • Most impact funds align around IRIS based impact indicators
  • Often collect results in form of spreadsheets or do not collect any results at all
  • Often aggregated results are often limited
  • Use B-Analytics for GIIRS rating, but do not consider this as true social impact measurement

Depending on their relationship with investee they often work with investee to aggregate results, often in google spreadsheets or excel based approach. 


UN SDGs, OECD, Social Value & Toniic T-100
During the last ten years, we have seen a rise in leading frameworks. We have also seen many standards starting with Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and IRIS/GRI. While these standards and frameworks are a good starting point, they are not sufficient to truly understand assets' impact.
Other initiatives, such as TONIIC's T-100,  can help us build a more integrated framework ecosystem. For example, TONIIC’s T-100 provides a cross-linking between Impact Management, SDG, and IRIS.
Five Dimensions of Impact Management
While these are definitely is useful, they still have few limitations:
  1. Requires more flexibility to accommodate other qualitative/quantitative custom and standards-based metrics
  2. Requires a foundation metrics search, selection, data collection, analytics, and reports
Many investors use this reference, but they still have yet to streamline the process on their own. SoPact Impact Cloud provides a theory of change (TOC) & impact-management-project-driven life cycle management. An integrated approach helps asset managers and assets define, monitor, and report impact results consistently.
End-2-End Impact Change
Integrating Theory of Change 
Impact Cloud integrates SDG, IRIS & Impact Management framework defined by OCED, IRIS, and TONIIC. It even takes it a step further by delivering a flexible metrics catalog that provides enriched metadata at the metrics level and cross-linked SDG goals, targets, and indicators with GRI and IRIS.
On top of that, users can create a hybrid standard and custom metrics with each of the SDG targets to further refine relevant impact (and context) metrics. This theory-of-change-based approach allows asset managers and the assets to collect data, report progress, evaluate, and analyze results better to communicate asset owners' impact on capital allocation.
The Importance of Impact Data
Collecting the right data is a part of the impact management process. The correct data enables organizations to report and communicate results more effectively. This will not only help organizations communicate to stakeholders but also future investors. Businesses are increasingly recognizing the significance of storytelling as a management and leadership skill and as a key to get investors.
Technology can be leveraged to streamline the process for data collection, analysis, and visualization to enable venture storytelling, which is decisive for strategic, operational, financial, and impact insights.
The key to impact measurement & management is that the process is aligned with the theory of change and should be completely integrated from impact framework creation, metrics selection, data collection, results tracking, evaluation, analysis, and communication.
Most Asset Managers today still aggregate results from the assets in an excel-based manual process. They often have a pseudo impact data aggregation framework, which requires investees or grantees to provide data regularly. Many even use B-Labs based B-Assessment approach. While they provide IRIS-based frameworks to aggregate results, most feel that this approach is too limited.
The best data aggregation:
  1. Allows asset managers to define metrics specific to the context that is unique to each enterprise (asset).
  2. Allows enterprise and asset managers to measure progress against their own unique targets.
  3. Performs simplified analysis of assets with similar or different metrics.
  4. The results from different assets and asset managers can be nicely composed in a unified way, reducing tremendous data aggregation and reporting burden.
Impact Cloud reporting provides built-in widgets that beautifully provide an integrated theory of change model and impact management reporting combined with a portfolio or fund-level automatic reporting. The story-driven wizards allow dynamic tables, charts combined with integrated impact learning and narratives from social media feeds.
Impact measurement and management ultimately enable funders to make better decisions based on a reliable and effective process.
Further Reading

Still curious about an actionable impact management framework? Get a free copy of this e-book!

Impact Investing Frameworks

Using the language of impact investing is essential, whether you're working at a funding level (investors) or an asset level (i.e., receiving the investment). A shared impact investing language allows these stakeholders to define shared expectations for how the impact will be measured and reported. This is especially important if the deal structure is dynamic, based on reaching certain impact thresholds

Standard Impact Investing Frameworks

  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • IRIS Metrics
  • GRI Sustainability Reporting

The Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 objectives announced by the United Nations in 2015. The purpose of the goals is to spur global collaboration, mobilize capital, and catalyze new solutions to the world's most pressing problems.

UN-SDGs 17 Goals

The Goals enable organizations of all types to frame their impact in terms of these categories and measure progress using the UN's comprehensive indicators list.

For example, for SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy, there are 5 general targets and 6 indicators. The target is more of a global goal (e.g., "By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency") while indicators can be measured on an organizational level by funders and their assets (e.g., Indicator 7.1.1 is the proportion of the population with access to electricity.)

The most used impact investing metrics, IRIS, is a standardized system originally conceived by the Rockefeller Foundation, Acumen, and B Lab. They were built upon dozens of existing standards from a variety of sectors. Today, there are about 400 metrics in the IRIS catalog, which can be accessed for free. An example of an IRIS metric can be seen in the image below.

IRIS metric percent recycled materials

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) developed the world's first standards for sustainability reporting. Organizations use these standards to guide the information they disclose regarding social, environmental, and economic impacts. It also includes a set of principles to structure that reporting process further.

The GRI has a comprehensive resource center to help any organization start using the GRI as a reporting framework. This includes a document detailing how to link the GRI standards with the SDGs. For a document detailing how to connect GRI with IRIS metrics, click here.




Conversations with Jane Riesman and Veronica Olazabal

Learn Impact Management Project, IRIS+ & New Norms in Impact Measurement.

  • How do you build an effective impact measurement system?
  • What is the current state of impact measurement and management?

Watch the video to learn from Jane Reisman and Veronica Olazabal, sharing how to integrate standards, use different frameworks for different sectors, and incorporate impact measurement learnings from the data to make strategic decisions. Learn how Impact Measurement, Impact Management Project, and IRIS+ are advancing end-to-end impact management. Pandemic has pressured businesses, impact investors, and philanthropy to rethink social impact and sustainability. We must innovate upon traditional monitoring and evaluation.

Watch video: Impact Measurement Norms for Powerful Results


Conversation with Sara Olsen

We are at the beginning of an impact revolution. While the impact revolution may not be as big as the tech revolution, it has the potential to drive a significant shift from corporate boardrooms to nonprofits around the globe. The rise of new frontiers of social impact has given birth to so many unique models previously limited to the charitable model. Socially responsible investing, ESG, Impact Investing, Social Impact Bonds, Venture Philanthropy and traditional philanthropy, and more. Just impact investing is growing 100% year after year. As we all are familiar with data from the GIIN, impact investing continues to double every year in the last few years and is expected to reach $1 Trillion in assets under management by next year! While this growth is unique, the overall allocated capital is still tiny compared to the world's total AUM.

We also see more significant trends in the $36 Trillion ESG sector. While ESG is gaining pace, there are still major impediments for impact accounting. We are witnessing a rapid interest in those who are following ESG reporting to start looking at impact accounting and reporting to communicate their impact. In some cases, there is a remarkable growth in building an ESG framework that aligns writing around SDG and other impact management principles. These sectors need to grow beyond impact washing or SDG washing to sustain growth since investors need high-quality deal flow with proper impact evidence before they invest in the enterprises. Today in the webinar, we are blessed to have someone who has seen this trend for the last 24 years.

We’re very excited about today’s guest, Sara Oleson. Captivated by the idea that investors should not only report their financial performance but also their social ROI, Sara Olsen founded SVT Group, an impact management firm, in 2001. SVT Group is a “best for the world” certified B corporation and impact management firm that designs and implements systems to measure, manage, and communicate social and ecological impact. The firm has developed and assessed the social and environmental impact of over $9B in assets. SVT’s diverse and inspiring clients include Yo-Yo Ma, Beneficial State Bank, and CalPERS’ Environmental Investment Advisor. Sara is a co-founder and board member of Social Value US, the United States affiliate of Social Value International. Sara’s other exciting contribution is toward field building in the impact management space. I was very impressed and inspired to be part of a group of forty or so global leaders from around the world who convened last May at the Haas School of Business in Berkeley. Sara led this collaborative effort to drive toward consensus among impact management practitioners about essential practices. Everyone believed that Impact Management Project is critical in impact evidence and impact reporting. Second, most felt that stakeholder voice engagement is vital to gathering impact evidence.

An impact revolution is underway. Social impact management -- the end-to-end process of designing, implementing, measuring, and reporting impact -- is now more implementable than ever before.

Some naysayers would disagree or say that we haven’t really gotten anywhere meaningful in recent years in the creation, management, and accounting of social value.

But saying so drastically overlooks the fact that massive mindset changes occur across sectors, and with it, the emergence of the resources and tools makes that accounting actionable. Recently we heard Sara Olsen, and her ideas also resonated in this article, If I see one more post about the lack of progress on impact metrics, I'm gonna lose it.

Take note, impact practitioners, because in this article we’ll explain why it’s high time we stop complaining about “lack of progress” and instead make ourselves aware of the considerable progress that has been made.

And most importantly, get to know the right tools that can help put that progress to work in service of those stakeholders that matter most.


Recently we heard Sara Olsen do this talk, and her ideas resonated. They were as follows...."

Demand for social value accounting (driven largely by impact investors needing to be able to account for those returns) has led to the emergence of frameworks that can support that journey and help us get closer to a consensus about how to do that.

We’re not just talking about those early frameworks  -- ESG, Venture Philanthropy, Social Impact Bonds, etc. --  which tend to be targets of criticism even while those critics overlook the inertia those frameworks have built to help us further refine impact management and creation.

We’re talking about frameworks developed by organizations like Social Value International (SVI) and the Impact Management Project. Both have developed frameworks that support the actionable implementation of impact strategy, from design to reporting.


Social Value International

Social Value International

We’ll start with SVI. Founded in 2008, the organization has been consistently developing clear frameworks to promote social value accounting across sectors. Specifically, they led the Social Return On Investment methodology, or SROI, which employs financial proxies to quantify social values (outcomes). They offer training and even accreditation, further promoting the movement towards standardization of certain practices. Also, SVI developed the Seven Principles of Social Value

seven principles of social value-1

Source: Social Value International

It is no accident that “Involve stakeholders” is the first principle. Indeed, many of the following principles would not hold as much weight if they weren’t considered key stakeholders, especially beneficiaries, in mind.

In fact, in a recent webinar hosted by Sopact, Sara Olsen (founder of SVT group), when talking about impact management and the Seven Principles, emphasized: “If there is one universal in impact management, it is the importance of stakeholder's voice.”

Of course, probably all impact practitioners would agree with that. Actually, there has been little disagreement in the sector about the importance of each of the Principles developed by SVI.

However, a lack of resistance or disagreement doesn’t necessarily correlate to the widespread application of those principles, which brings us to our second organization that has developed frameworks to catalyze actionable impact management.


Impact Management Project

impact management project

The Impact Management Project emerged to address those calls for more transparent impact management and measurement structures. Their primary directive is just what those critics have been calling for: consensus

At this moment, they have successfully convened under their platform more than 2,000 organizations (including Social Value International and Sopact) to share best practices and debate technical topics to get closer to a wider consensus on accounting for social value.

So, in what areas has some consensus been reached? A significant milestone was reached when member organizations worldwide reached an agreement about the Five Dimensions of Impact.

Five dimensions of impact

You’ll notice that the SVI Principles developed before the Five Dimensions are clearly aligned with these five impact measurement areas. For example, Value Things That Matter is clearly aligned to the What and Who dimensions. Many of the Values encompass multiple Dimensions, demonstrating that SVI’s framework is a good place to start to implement impact measurement using the Five Dimensions.

So, what else is needed to go from consensus to action? 

Practitioners need to have access to the right tools. There’s one in particular which can serve the needs of those practitioners, from end to end. But before sharing that tool, let's examine the buy-in element from key internal stakeholders because that will always be key before adopting any new tool.

Read More: 5 Ways Economic Development Organizations Should Enrich Impact Data




One of the most significant perceived barriers to comprehensive impact measurement and management is that it is resource intensive. Any investment in platforms or consulting is perhaps not where organizational capital should be allocated.

But, of course, the cost is relative to the benefit. With the right tools and a good understanding of the actual value of the social returns, the investment is usually worth it.

How might one reduce costs in that process? 

First of all, getting alignment between asset owners (e.g., investors), managers, and assets themselves about target outcomes is crucial. All parties need to learn from the data collected so that it can be applied to improve outcomes further.

This ability to derive and apply impact learnings from data is essential and is one of the benefits of investing in the measurement process in the first place.

Streamlining the alignment process, along with the effective and efficient design, implementation, analysis, learning, and reporting, will make that cost-benefit equation clear to even the most resistant executive or asset owner.

Sopact has created an online platform that enables practitioners to do those things from start to finish.


An All-in-one Tool for Your Impact Management Project Framework


Impact Management Project Framework

Sopact’s Impact Cloud® allows asset owners and asset managers, and social purpose organizations to easily measure and manage their social and environmental impact.

And it was built with the stakeholder-centric approach in mind (remember SVI’s first Principle, Involve Stakeholders), with alignment to the Five Dimensions and shown in the image above.

Many of the platform's cloud-based tools are of the drag-and-drop variety, empowering even the less tech-savvy practitioners to wield impact data.  Because it is cloud-based, everyone from asset managers and owners to the assets themselves can access the data, upload collected data, analyze existing data, or view results of analyses (understanding the impact learnings!).

Above all, it provides a place where collaboration can thrive, with no limit to the number of partners, countries, or metrics that can be managed.

Together, to sustain the considerable growth we have seen towards a consensus-based impact sector, we need to continue applying these emerging frameworks to avoid impact washing and obtain the real impact data that can help us achieve the global impact outcomes we seek to create.

It’s time for us to collectively roll up our sleeves and stop despairing about what still needs to be done in the impact measurement space and instead take advantage of the important progress made. It’s time we all started putting those frameworks and tools to fair use.