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Purposeful social impact analytics

Data-Driven Change: harnessing the power of purposeful social impact analytics
Written by
Unmesh Sheth
Published on
March 1, 2022

Social impact analytics is useful for impact management and technology's role in the process for social purpose organizations.

Purposeful organizations focus on people or the planet and strive to reduce negative impacts while increasing positive ones. Often, measurement and evaluation are used to justify impact. The traditional approach of justifying impact to funders often doesn't help a purposeful organization learn impact. However, there is a better approach. By embedding a strong data culture and continuously listening to stakeholders, an organization can grow into a successful business and improve societal/environmental impact. 

 Listening to stakeholders and becoming data-driven is key for organizations to become successful in their business as well as improve societal/environmental impact.

  • Invest in good data analytics for better impact intelligence, and to scale your operations.
  • The path to success is to start fast, iterate continuously, by adopting data analytics services using open-source technology platforms like SOPACT that help an organization reduce cost and time to succeed, and also provide value.


If corporations, investors, and social purpose organizations become stakeholder data-centric early on, they can achieve a faster path to growth and stakeholder impact. To date, becoming data-driven has been limited to well-capitalized businesses that can afford to spend millions of dollars to meet specific business objectives. 

This article shares two insightful and groundbreaking approaches to making social purpose organizations data-driven. Our goal is to share how deep knowledge of technology and impact management together can help a purposeful organization succeed faster. We will cover many deep-rooted issues from different industry players. 

Organizations often fail because many traditional approaches are simply not actionable, mostly academic without engaging key stakeholders, and not well tested in real life. These headwinds often mislead organizations, delaying the time it takes to achieve long-term impact.  We believe a practical and actionable approach is the only way to improve impact faster. 

1) Technology

Until recently, powerful data analytics were only available to large corporations with substantial IT budgets and large data teams. In general, purposeful organizations lack IT budgets or have lower-tech knowledge that limits their ability to become data-driven and impactful. The open-source movement has brought data analytics and integration to organizations with small IT budgets in the past few years. SOPACT continuously strives to democratize data-driven decision-making by lowering costs and providing value. This generation of platforms can seamlessly integrate internal and external data, providing better impact intelligence. 

Technology for good, techforgood

Scale by becoming data-driven:

For small and medium businesses and nonprofits with limited IT budgets, leveraging innovative technology solutions brings efficiency. Corporations with meaningful programs can also benefit greatly. Investing in data-driven strategies pays off by bringing efficiency, accountability, and stopping waste. 

We all agree that typical organizations have many data sources such as hundreds of spreadsheets, CRMs, case management systems, program management, grant management, and marketing systems. These fragmented data sources make it difficult for organizations to gain impact or operational insight to make strategic decisions. Organizations can achieve a faster program-market fit, product-market fit, or service-market fit by unlocking data faster and continuously, reducing cost and time to succeed.

One of our previous blogs described impact measurement and management (IMM) and how it provides value to scale business and social impact through continuous data intelligence. 

Case study: Building Impact Management Capacity 

In 2021 Sopact partnered with the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship with a goal to build the impact management capacity of 300 social purpose organizations to improve social impact. We begin by looking for existing data, perhaps stakeholder or operation data in spreadsheets. The first step is to ensure that every purposeful organization has a well-defined impact objective or theory of change aligned with stakeholders. Later focus on overall as-is (current data) and future data design. 

Our experience suggests that connecting existing data with real-time analytics earlier puts you on the path to success faster. You can first determine whether current data is useful; if not, understand gaps in activity, output, and outcome data.


Miller Center Case Study

2) Iterative Impact Management Approach

Traditional impact measurement or evaluation methods are time-consuming and resource-consuming. This revolutionary approach combines innovative technology with practical "impact experiments." While we believe the new technology platform is a game-changer, it is insufficient. We need a fresh approach to impact. Impact Cloud® DNA that combines innovative technology with impact experiments. The following article will give you deep insight into "impact experiments" - a way to become impact management driven faster! A subsequent article will provide you with deep insight into the impact data pipeline - a revolutionary approach to making every organization impactful faster!

Subscribe to learn actionable steps to impact experiments. We will provide step-by-step guidance in the Linkedin newsletter.

Our goal is to deploy data analytics services within days and not a typical year-long time frame so that organizations can iterate faster with impact experiments. Unlike corporates, many purpose organizations do not have the budget or capability to deploy expensive IT solutions. 

The path to success starts with frequent and simple data management systems such as MS Excel, Google Sheets, Smart Sheets, Airtable, etc. Some mature organizations with a decent budget may have Salesforce, PowerBI, case management, or program management systems. 

Fig: Connect Data Sources

The strategy starts with commonly used applications, connects them in seconds, and lets the data flow to a real-time dashboard. In the absence of a preference, you can use Google Sheets templates to develop a dashboard for impact measurement and management (IMM) that will incorporate information from other sources, such as operations or finance. As you grow, you can maintain a unified approach. With more projects and partners, granular permissions are granted to each team. Then, they will be able to access data they should have access to, enabling effective collaboration with the funding entity. 

You can share results based on funder goals with multiple programs and funders. Funders who focus on outcomes can also help organizations build their capacity. Another crucial component is the semantic layer. The ability to align with impact management projects (IMPs), score, benchmark, and unify data from multiple sources thanks to an innovative and intelligent semantic layer is a game-changer 

Once you start to build a robust data-driven approach, designing stakeholder progress is a must. The success of your economic development, diversity-equity-inclusion program, and worker wage growth requires systematic data collection, better data science, and proven social science.  To succeed with your sustainable business and finance initiatives, you need a partner who has sector, impact management, and deep technology expertise. 

Become a Social Impact Analytics Pro

The path to success is to start fast and iterate continuously. Unfortunately, most organizations suffer from long-term "analysis paralysis" as they may not have sector, impact management, and technology experience. As your social programs or business grows, the line between impact management and business data intelligence begins to blur. Investing in good data analytics will allow you to scale your future operations and impact. We hope that you have found this blog helpful.

Learn More: Theory of change

AI for Social Impact

Current state of AI for Social Impact Measurement
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