The latest global trends in social impact measurement, management
This article was first published in next billion.
Impact investors have long turned to the GIIN catalog of metrics (IRIS) to support their measurement needs. As IRIS + clearly states, credible, comparable impact data are needed to inform impact investment decisions and drive greater impact results. But as we know, accounting for impact is notoriously difficult and even the IRIS standards solves one challenge it weren’t meant to solve all impact measurement issues including such as how to make impact strategy actionable?
Now, the GIIN has reintroduced its standards with IRIS+, aiming to take another step towards greater data transparency, improved comparability, and ease of use.
In this blog, we’ll take a brief look at what’s new and how impact investors, managers, and practitioners alike can best turn the IRIS+ resources into the ACTIONABLE IMPACT MANAGEMENT. Because IRIS+ by itself is not enough, practitioners still need practical tools to take advantage of it, complementing what IRIS+ provides so that impact journeys can go from theory to reality, no matter the size of program or organization.
In a few words, IRIS+ aims to help impact investors go from impact intention to impact result. How? Let’s examine a few of its key elements.
A shared language is essential for impact investors and the IRIS+ Thematic Taxonomy seeks to bring us closer to having that language. It provides standardized definitions for different impact categories and impact themes, enabling sector professionals to better collaborate in the assessment, communication, and improvement of impact outcomes.
The GIIN lays it out in more detail, but to summarize, these metric sets are compact categories of key impact performance indicators. Each category includes one or more IRIS metrics (from the IRIS catalog) as well as guides for how to calculate and use the indicators, and insights that can be taken from from.
No matter your industry or disclosure requirements, it is likely that IRIS+ has got you covered. It aligns with more than 50 standards bodies, which makes for better ease of use and more effective use overall. Sopact is one of those official GIIN partners, along with the other organizations shown here.
Both in IRIS+ development and in how they suggest it be used, the GIIN emphasizes a stakeholder-centric strategy. A deeper guide from IRIS+ on the importance of involving stakeholders (and how to use IRIS+ to do so) can be found here. One key takeaway is that the metrics sets can help investors pursue outcomes that are relevant for the stakeholders involved.
This last point brings us to an important question, however. What tools might we use to help us implement our IRIS+ supported strategy? How might we get the most out of IRIS+ and, for example, properly adopt that stakeholder approach?
At Sopact, we have some answers.
IRIS+ gives you the strategic guidance you need. But we know that strategy is worth nothing if it is not actionable. To listen to the voices of those affected by your activities remains surprisingly rare. Why so?
Sopact’s cloud-based impact management solution, Impact Cloud, can help practitioners at every level not just structure that strategy (complementing the resources that IRIS+ provides) but also help put that strategy into action. Here’s how.
Let’s start at the beginning. With IRIS+ you can select your impact category and any relevant sub-categories to further specify. And while the deep resource base that IRIS+ provides can take you further into impact strategy development, it cannot give you the online tools to map out that strategy (for example, mapping out your Theory of Change). See the example below for a water project mapping out their TOC using Sopact's tool.
This cloud-based solution used in conjunction with the IRIS+ guide to creating a TOC can help practitioners and their teams reduce much of the impact planning headache. Why is it important to have this documentation in the tool? This first step makes rest of the IMM journey seamless and meaningful. Also, when you do not find your metric in IRIS+ catalogue you can add your custom metric or utilize many other standards built in the system.
The IRIS metrics catalog is the bread and butter of the GIIN's offering. While they do offer the ability to search metrics from your impact category and provide background information on how to get the most out of each metric, there remains the need for a tool that houses those metrics, allows you to manipulate them, input their relevant data, etc.
Enter the Sopact tool once more. It includes a comprehensive database of metrics available which can be searched, filtered, and generally used to define and manage the metrics you choose. With dashboards to present outcome results and an automatic impact scorecard feature (which can be aligned to IRIS+ and the SDGs), metrics that may have originally been perused and sourced from IRIS+ actually come alive in the Impact Cloud.
The GIIN has gone to great lengths to make sure both the development of their resources and the use of them takes into account a wide variety of stakeholders. On the impact intervention side, and through the lens of impact measurement, this means we need to involve beneficiaries in the discussion and reporting of outcomes. In short, we need to ask them!
Such an approach is a tricky one because it inevitably involves qualitative data, and as we know the telling of a story (how I feel I have been impacted by an intervention) can only take us so far. We need ways to translate those qualitative data into quantitative.
To make sure these stakeholders are not just heard but that their stories lead to impact insights (and eventually better outcomes), Sopact is incorporating AI technology into its Impact Cloud to be able to collect emotional or sentimental analytics from the stakeholders in order to quantify qualitative data.
That way, those stories can provide results, merging stakeholder sentiment with impact data to form a more robust impact management strategy.
IRIS+ has given practitioners, both new and old, a powerful place to start or continue their impact journeys. IRIS+ Core Metrics Sets may be used to assess the effects of any investment or enterprise across the five dimensions of impact. The important point is that data collected must be kept together as a ‘set’ across all dimensions to preserve context. This is the key element aligned with Impact Cloud, as metrics can be grouped by the set and by keeping them intact you can align your portfolio on five dimensions of Impact Management Project.
Its cross-sector accessibility (standards alignment) and its bevy of resources like thematic taxonomy guides, metrics catalog, and stakeholder-centric strategy builders make the process less daunting for impact managers.
To complement this comprehensive resource, those managers must have the right tools to put those guides, metrics, and strategies into action.
Sopact's Impact Cloud® offers that end-to-end impact management solution, making those fine resources from IRIS+ actionable from start to finish.
Learn More: Impact Measurement & Management
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