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Streamline IRIS impact measurement and management

Streamline IRIS impact measurement implementation with Impact Cloud and report your results based on impact accounting guidelines.
Written by
Unmesh Sheth
Published on
September 12, 2019

IRIS Impact Measurement, from GIIN, offers standardized metrics to evaluate, compare, and enhance the social, environmental, and financial impacts of investments, aiding in informed decision-making

This article was first published in the 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 must inform impact investment decisions and drive greater impact results. But as we know, accounting for impact is notoriously difficult, and even the IRIS standards solve one challenge it wasn’t meant to solve all impact measurement issues, including how to make impact strategy actionable.  

The GIIN has reintroduced its standards with IRIS+, aiming to achieve greater data transparency, improved comparability, and ease of use. 

This blog will take a brief look at what’s new and how the impact investors, managers, and practitioners alike can best turn the IRIS+ resources into ACTIONABLE IMPACT MANAGEMENT. Because IRIS+ 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 program's size or organization.

IRIS+Core Metrics Set and Profile

iris+ giin - impact measurement and impact management

In a few words, IRIS+ aims to help impact investors from impact intention to impact the result. How? Let’s examine a few of its key elements.

Next, use Impact Cloud to streamline your impact strategy.    

Thematic Taxonomy

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 assessing, communicating, and improving impact outcomes.

IRIS+ Metrics Sets and Metrics Catalog

The GIIN lays it out in more detail, but these metric sets are compact categories of key impact performance indicators. Each category includes one or more IRIS metrics (from the IRIS catalog) and guides for calculating and using the indicators and insights that can be taken from them.

Standards Alignment

No matter your industry or disclosure requirements, it is likely that IRIS+ has got you covered. It aligns with more than 50 standards bodies, making for better ease of use and more effective use overall. Sopact is one of those official GIIN partners and other organizations shown here.

Stakeholder-centric approach

In IRIS+ development and how they suggest it be used, the GIIN emphasizes a stakeholder-centric strategy.  IRIS+ guide 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 relevant outcomes 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+ Indicators & Impact Cloud®

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 structure that strategy (complementing the resources that IRIS+ provides) and help put that strategy into action. Here’s how.

Actionable solutions at the outset of the impact journey

Let’s start at the beginning. With IRIS+, you can select your impact category and any relevant sub-categories to specify further. 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, your Theory of Change). See the example below for a water project mapping their TOC using Sopact's tool.

This cloud-based solution, combined 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 the rest of the IMM journey seamless and meaningful. Also, when you do not find your metric in the IRIS+ catalog, you can add your custom metric or utilize many other standards built into the system.

GIIN IRIS+ metrics selection

The IRIS metrics catalog is the bread and butter of GIIN's offering. While they 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 available metrics, which can be searched, filtered, and used to define and manage your chosen metrics. 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+ come alive in the Impact Cloud.

Making Iris Actionable with Impact Management and Measurement Platform


Transforming the stakeholder voice using Artificial Intelligence 

The GIIN has gone to great lengths to ensure the development of its resources and use, taking into account various stakeholders. On the impact intervention side, and through the lens of impact measurement, we need to involve beneficiaries in discussing and reporting outcomes. In short, we need to ask them!

Such an approach is tricky because it inevitably involves qualitative data, and as we know, telling a story can only take us so far. We need ways to translate those qualitative data into quantitative.

Impact Management and Measurement Solution
Fig: SDG Goals

To ensure these stakeholders are heard and their stories lead to impact insights (and eventually better outcomes), Sopact incorporates AI technology into its Impact Cloud to collect emotional or sentimental analytics from the stakeholders to quantify qualitative data.

Those stories can provide results, merging stakeholder sentiment with impact data to form a more robust impact management strategy.

Align with five dimensions of impact

IRIS+ has given new and old practitioners 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 and keep them intact; you can align your portfolio on five dimensions of the 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 implement those guides, metrics, and strategies.

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

How to ask open ended questions

Learn how to ask open-ended questions effectively with our insightful guide. An effective way to learn stakeholder voice.
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