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Measuring Social Impact Tools

Social Impact Assessment & Monitoring and Evaluation tools have many things in common and many differences.  This is a comprehensive guide for practitioners to understand different types of measurement and management tools associated with the social impact assessment process. The importance of social impact assessment tools lies in the objective of those assessments, which is to measure and evaluate the performance of a program or intervention so that execution can be improved along with the impacts generated.

What is difference between Monitoring & Evaluation & Impact Measurement Management (IMM) Tools?

Monitoring and Evaluation tools are used primarily during the data collection process of a social impact assessment. Their purpose is to pinpoint those outcome areas of an impact intervention or program which have the most relevance for the primary stakeholders, or beneficiaries, and shed light on to what extent such outcomes are occurring. These tools are generally used when there is some kind of interaction with these external stakeholders.

Impact Measurement Management tools are used to work with, compile, analyze, and share those impact data once they are collected. Their purpose is to facilitate how an organization leverages data on an internal level for the benefit of improving internal processes and also program outcomes.   

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Tools for Data Collection & Management

Whichever social impact assessment methodology you employ, part of the process will inevitably include collection of data. Data is, of course, the foundation of any social impact assessment, whether you are evaluating processes or determining the extent of impact generated. Below is a breakdown of some of the tools available to make the data collection process relevant and efficient for your organization’s social impact assessment. Most fall under the category of Monitoring and Evaluation Tools, although a number of them also possess data management features. 

Offline data collection tools

As the name suggestions, this method involves collecting data with tools that do not need an internet connection. Sometimes cumbersome and time- and resource-intensive , they are often necessary given the specific contexts of the communities where data is being collected.

Magpi features social impact assessment tool

Online Data Collection

As an internet connection becomes more and more ubiquitous, data collection which leverages such a connection does as well. The benefits are obvious --  quicker collection, real-time, less resource-intensive.

sopact impact cloud for impact assessment

*It is worth noting that many of the tools mentioned in the Offline Data Collection Tools section also have online collection capabilities.


Data Management Tools

Where does all the data you collected go? Who has access to it? How is it analyzed and shared? These crucial questions point to the need for ways to manage all kinds of data across departments and even across organizations in the impact sector.


  • Quickbase: Between dashboards and data reporting, this code-free application building platform gives teams the power to customize data management to fit their needs.
  • Salesforce: One of the most well-known, comprehensive services on the market, you can find nearly everything you need for data management in the Salesforce suite of products.
  • Sopact Impact Cloud: An end-to-end solution to impact data management needs, the solutions include features for stakeholders at any point in the spectrum, improving data accessibility and how well it can be leveraged.
  • Blackbaud: A cloud software solution with a focus on social good. Their offering of products and services for nonprofits is as comprehensive as it gets, including a dashboard designed specifically to manage the outcomes tracking of a program or organization.
  • Social Solutions: Specializes in solutions for impact-oriented organizations, large and small, and includes proprietary software with reporting and measurement tools.
  • Net Suite: The self-proclaimed #1 Cloud ERP, it is used by more than 400,000 organizations from entry-level to C-suite executives to help manage data and internal processes. 
  • Airtable: Complete with mobile and desktop apps, this powerful platform allows for seamless cross-team data syncing in real-time. Its spreadsheet and other features are used by over 30,000 companies globally. Example interface shown below.

airtable interface example

Monitoring and Evaluation Suites

The goal of Monitoring and Evaluation in general is to hold ourselves accountable to our impact goals through our data. Software suites specific to M&E needs measure the progress and performance of an organization’s programs. Often these software suites are costly and obtained through grant funding.

 

 

Article with extensive list of M & E Software 

Software tools for M&E

  • ActivityInfo: Developed in collaboration with UNICEF, this software is used in over 50 countries to optimize workflows between dispersed teams and organizations.
  • DevResults: A dashboard for managing evaluation data; offers great mapping and collaboration capabilities.
  • Synergy Indicata: Monitoring and Evaluation Software: An impressive suite of features specifically for M&E processes, from the necessary dashboards and analytics to results frameworks and cross-project data collection.
  • Granity: Remote data collection and automated reporting are just a couple of the features that this software provides to facilitate good M&E results.
  • Newdea: They have a suite of free tools to help manage your impact data and streamline your social impact assessment.
  • Clear Impact: Web-based application for all things measuring and reporting.

Articles

Impact Measurement

Social Value Measurement

With the advent of impact investing first generation tools started with social value based measurement approach.  These tools are designed based on popularly known approach such as Social Return on Investment (SROI), lead by Global Value Exchange (GVE)

  • Sinzer: Offers impact data management solutions for defining metrics or using standardized metrics, collecting data, reporting, and more.
  • Sametrica: Demonstrate impact outcomes through their the impact data management and reporting services.  

Articles & Other Tools

Grant Management Systems

Most grant management systems tend to have grantee results collection modules or add-on products. While they brand them as impact measurement tools, fundamentally they are a survey management approach with either built-in or customized metrics approach.  

One of the challenges with these systems is that they tend to demand exactly the same metrics of all the grantees creating tremendous challenges for some grantees who find most questions not relevant to their impact context.  Many of these tools are not built on a structured impact framework, do not have built-in support of standard metrics, and/or have limited data types. Often reporting and analytics are not integral part of the system. You can see a review grant management software below: 

Reporting Tools & Resources for Social Impact Assessment

Second generation tools such as B-Analytics for Impact Investing and AERIS Cloud for CDFI encourage individual organizational reporting with a focus on standard-based reporting. The following is a list of resources, tools, and toolkits to aid the social impact assessment process along this standardized approach.

Tools and Resources:

Social Impact Assessment Methods

General analytical methods

 

Comparative methodology

Useful when a similar intervention or program has been implemented or affected a group of beneficiaries before. Research is conducted on these previous actions and their results and then compared to the proposed program and its desired results. You can read more on comparative analyses here.

Trend projection

This method requires existing data over a period of time which can then be used to extrapolate a similar change rate forecasting into the future. If conditions have remained stable in the impact context and little changes have been made to an intervention or program this method of forecasting could be relevant.

Population multiplier

For programs or interventions that deal with variables which are affected by population growth, this method is quite useful to make inferences about changes in those variables. For example, number of low-income housing units needed is a variable that could be affected by population in a certain area. A population multiplier method can be used to predict need and therefore scope of a program.

Statistical significance

The bedrock of most scientific studies, this method used to calculate whether the trends we see in our data are not simply the result of chance, that in fact there is a certain degree of probability that our intervention affected that change. You can read more about this method and how to implement it here.

Scenario-based methods

A strategy-planning approach, scenarios ask organizations to create a number of possible futures (thinking of macro level trends) which provide models from which to base robust strategies in the face of these future possibilities. Also called scenario planning, the results help mitigate risk, better prepare for uncertainties, and in the context of the impact sector, create interventions better designed for the emerging needs of beneficiaries.

Analysis methods and observation tools


Stakeholder analysis

Who will be affected by the evaluation? By the program or intervention? These are your stakeholders. A stakeholder analysis asks these questions, maps those stakeholders, and allows you to develop strategies to manage relationships with each stakeholder group.stakeholder analysis

Participatory Rural Appraisal

Also called Participatory Learning for Action, this is a method which brings beneficiaries into the program development process using a variety of structured interactions to facilitate acquisition of information and the co-creation of solutions. This method has been used in agricultural communities mostly but has also been adapted to a variety of different contexts. The method helps ensure that the design and execution of a program is context-relevant and therefore more likely to be successful.

Participant observation

The method-of-choice in anthropological or sociological studies, it is also highly relevant as a social impact assessment tool for certain contexts. Qualitative data is collected in the form of field notes based on first-hand observation of a local context. Useful for gleaning insights on the nuances of a certain population (beliefs, day-to-day customs, etc.), such data is usually complemented with other data sources.

Semi-structured interviews and focus groups

Using a pre-written guide of thematic questions, these inquiry-based methods involve in-person conversations usually with the target community. The idea is to gently guide participants to  speak about the topics at hand (of course, without prompting the responses one would like to hear).

Needs assessment


As the name suggests, a
needs assessment helps establish the needs of various stakeholder groups (usually beneficiaries, although it can also be conducted for internal stakeholders as well). The results can be used to implement changes in a current intervention or to design and introduce an intervention that is well adapted to its target context.

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Open Source & Practical Framework for Measuring Social Impact

- Asia Pacific Center for Social Innovation

 

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Actionable Impact Management

Open Source & Practical Framework for Measuring Social Impact

  • GroundworkTheory of Change & Data Capacity
  • Metrics: How to select outcome metrics
  • DataHow to improve data capacity
  • CommunicationHow to communicate your impact effectively