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Measure Social Impact: Social & Economic Return of Collective Impact

December, 10 2018

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Unmesh Sheth
Written By
Unmesh Sheth

During the last five years, there has been a  movement around various types of collective outcomes and impact programs. Stanford Social Innovation,  FSG and other leading organizations are giving a rise to new ecosystem aligned to collective impact initiatives. Programs often align by regional impact, the area of focus and common goals should follow five core principles of collective impact: a common agenda, shared measurement, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and backbone support. This article focuses on value and best practices of achieving “The Shared Measurement” principle.

Collective impact initiatives can enable small to medium size nonprofits by proving their socio-economic influence. Many of the nonprofits simply do not even have enough capacity to demonstrate their own impact.  Three Reasons for putting together collective impact initiatives are -

  1. Gain powerful leverage for increases in government / public grants.

  2. Power to lobby for beneficiary legislation by demonstrating that nonprofits are working where businesses do not and create socio economic improvement.

  3. Demonstrate meaningful and effective measures of the organization’s mission and vision.

Read More: The catch 22 of social impact measurement

The Secret Sauce of Collective Impact Programs:

Problems with Collective Programs Today:

Collective impact organization or initiatives face many challenges for demonstrating social impact results.

  1. Aligning collective theory of change:  Nonprofits participating in collective impact programs often experience a mismatch in program objectives, beneficiaries served, and intended outcome. Hence, it is often best to start with programs that have collective areas of impact.  For example, education in the specific state of counties.

  2. Even after aligning organizations participating in the same programs, non-profits often do not have similar program metrics. For example, a collective program in education can be focused on pre-school, after-school, college readiness, children with special needs, etc. The general best practice is to create sub-programs and assign standard based metrics.  Standard metrics provide a better measurement context with commonly known data collection processes. While even after grouping them by sub-program, each nonprofit may still have key indicators that are unique to them.

  3. Simplifying the results data collection and reducing the operative burden:  While nonprofits may be willing to participate in the results collection process, the biggest challenge is to incentivize each of them to provide results that uniquely identify key indicators close to their mission and vision. Providing a large survey common to each sub-program participant can be quite counter productive.

  4. Using data research tools like IMPLAN to understand the economic impact of the nonprofits within their community, as well as the larger economic landscape as similar organizations work tackling similar issues within the same region.

  5. Communicate the results across the different players, so each of them is not only motivated to continue measuring impact and sharing their results, but also they can understand their shortcomings and plan for improvement.

  6. Report collective impact through different tools to get more support from partners, communities, and funders. When there is evidence that an initiative is moving the needle both socially and economically, people are more prone to trust and support the cause.

Read More: How to setup the groundwork for effective social impact measurement?

collective impact measurement


The Capabilities Needed for Effective Collective Impact Assessment:

The social impact measurement platform should have the following capabilities:

  • Provide data-driven insights to all your programs, grants and investments with built-in, flexible scenario with real-time updates when new results arrive

  • Flexible, comprehensive and easy to use

  • Provide end to end life cycle from theory of change, integrated with standardized and custom metrics selection process, ease of data collection & analytics and integrated reporting

  • Results collection should not add a burden. Only collect results that matter most.

  • Impact reporting should smartly provide qualitative and quantitative results composition with smart impact learning summary

Read MoreHow can we improve social impact accounting?



Economic impact analysis is often accessible to only a few privileged nonprofits with large budgets and access to specialized practitioners. Today, it is possible to democratize this information thanks to tools like IMPLAN that help collective nonprofits measure economic impact regardless of their size or budget. As collective impact platform, SoPact Impact Cloud can simplify the process of setting up the collective impact programs’ Theory of Change, indicators, results collection process, results in analysis and results in communication through impact reports.


Read More About Social Impact Assessment


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