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Hetal Sheth 8/15/22 10:36 AM 4 min read

What Does It Take To Create The Right Social Impact Strategies?

Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” We agree. Preparation is crucial. When it comes to impact measurement and management (IMM), right impact strategies drives success and turns failure into learning. With the growing number of social enterprises and nonprofits adopting practices that promote social good. They are facing a very similar set of challenges. Developing the right social impact strategies has been a particular challenge. We’ll use the example of an equity and inclusion initiative to ground the must-haves in a concrete example.

Why right impact strategies are important?
  • 1. Strategy
  • 2. Indicators
  • 3. Technology Tools
  • 4. Flexibility
  • 5. Stakeholders

Why right impact strategies are important?

Impact measurement and management (IMM) is an integral part of the lifecycle of a social program. It affects everything along the line from program development to implementation and evaluation. 

The right impact strategies should be incorporated in the planning stage of the program or intervention. This is strategic. It ensures that a solid framework is implemented alongside program activities. Forgetting impact strategy can lead to missed opportunities for important data. For example, in an equity and inclusion initiative, data can be collected before and after the initiative to see what changes as a result. 

Read More: How Impact Data Pipelines Can Simplify Impact Management?

1. Impact Strategy

The social impact strategies give us the frameworks to approach the IMM. The strategy helps us to answer:

  • What is the problem you are solving? 
  • How are we going to get there?

For IMM, this means looking at the big picture. Often, social enterprises and nonprofits focus on program outcomes as their primary data measurement. As we’ve said time and again, outputs are not impacts. The impact is a change that happens as a result of program outcomes over the years. Your organization's equity and inclusion initiative may have trained hundreds of people, but did your employee or client diversity improve as a result of that training? That's the impact. Developing a simple Theory of Change with only 2-3 outcomes (Impact Experiments) helps impact organizations to understand these connections.

Impact Strategy Checklist

Impact Strategy allows social-purpose organizations to design an effective impact management strategy to measure and manage the impact. Regardless of the impact segment you represent, it is important to develop an impact strategy, target smart capital, and interact with investors and funders. And our view is that to be successful in executing that funding journey, you must first have a well-defined impact management strategy.

Impact Strategy Checklist - How to create impact strategy?

Read More: The Impact Management Journey of Social Enterprises

Read More: The Art Of Actionable Impact Storytelling

2. Indicators

We use indicators to operationalize strategy. This is how we quantify and measure what’s important about your program. This step is part of the impact data strategy.

To find what’s important, look at your Theory of Change. Use your expertise in the field and talk to your stakeholders. Open communication is the best way to understand what your stakeholders want, need, and are experiencing. 

Build your indicators around stakeholder feedback. This helps you measure progress towards outcomes that matter. In an equity and inclusion initiative, the most obvious indicator would be the demographic make-up of the organization. Still, a stakeholder survey may identify a “sense of belonging” as important. That indicator is of equal importance.

Read More: How to Choose the Right Impact Indicators to Demonstrate Impact?

3. Technology Tools

One reason social enterprises and nonprofits avoid IMM is due to labor-intensive data collection and analysis. It seems like a burden to busy program managers or directors. 

Sometimes organizations have access to expensive analytical tools but have nobody on staff who knows how to use them. Often, data exists in various systems spread across the organization, including spreadsheets. Lots of spreadsheets are a nightmare. The right technology streamlines this process. Data collection and analysis tech tools should reduce the burden and increase efficiency, not the other way around.

Read More: Mentoring Young People into Adulthood with Impact Data

4. Flexibility

Effective social impact strategies require flexibility. Silicon Valley tech companies utilize lean, agile, and scrum project management techniques. All of these approaches allow for an iterative learning process based on experimentation, learning, and change. 

Social Impact strategies formulation based on impact experiments allows a social enterprise or nonprofit to start immediately. It allows testing of the theory of change, gathering data, and making decisions based on the findings. As important as planning is, no plan will ever be perfect. Your impact strategy planning should acknowledge and incorporate continuous learning.

Read More: 5 Social Enterprise Challenges Hindering Their Growth

5. Stakeholders

The impact is nothing without the people you’re trying to help. That’s the whole point of your social enterprise or nonprofit. 

When it comes to lasting change, top-down tactics don’t work. Programs that are designed and implemented without stakeholder impact risk wasting valuable resources. Organizations where outsiders decide what is best for a community, air-drop resources, then disappear are not creating sustainable solutions. 

Finding your stakeholder’s voice in each stage of the IMM process enriches your focus. Never forget: We can’t know your stakeholder benefits unless we ask the stakeholders. When talking about equity and inclusion, we only know our effects are working if the stakeholders report changes.

How to prepare for Stakeholder-Centric Impact Management in 2022?

Read More: What are the Barriers to Stakeholder Centric Impact Management?

Right Social Impact Strategies that Make a Difference

Driving impactful change in communities means understanding the problem and what effect we’re having on it. The right data makes this possible. We need the right social impact strategies that help strategize how and what data to collect. Make sure your right social impact strategies incorporate all of these must-haves. For expert IMM consulting, contact Sopact. To learn more about IMM, visit our blog.

 

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Hetal Sheth

The founder of Ektta, and co-founder of SoPact, Hetal holds a deep passion for establishing enduring impact management practices in the social sector to have built-in learning and accountability.