Identify the population or community that the initiative aims to benefit.
Identify specific and measurable goals for the initiative
Develop a plan to collect and analyze data on the metrics that will be used to assess progress toward achieving the goals .
What is social outcomes?
Social outcomes refer to the changes or impacts that occur as a result of a program, project, or initiative. These outcomes are specifically focused on a particular population or community and can include various aspects such as changes in knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, or living conditions. They reflect the positive effects that the initiative aims to achieve in society.
For instance, social outcomes may include increased access to education, reduced poverty rates, improved health outcomes, and increased civic engagement. These outcomes are crucial indicators of the success and effectiveness of a program.
To measure social outcomes, it is essential to design effective stakeholder feedback mechanisms. This typically involves collecting feedback through surveys, interviews, and qualitative data collection. By gathering information directly from the target population or community, organizations can gain valuable insights into the impact of their initiatives.
Metrics, on the other hand, are the measures or indicators used to assess progress towards achieving social outcomes. These metrics can include both quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative data may include test scores, income levels, and health statistics, while qualitative data may involve surveys, interviews, or observations.
To define social outcomes and metrics, it is important to identify the specific population or community that the initiative aims to benefit. Additionally, setting specific and measurable goals for the initiative is crucial. This helps in determining the metrics that will be used to assess progress towards achieving these goals.
To gain a clear understanding of social outcomes and metrics, organizations often develop a Theory of Change (ToC). This ToC serves as the empirical foundation for the organization's impact hypothesis. It outlines the outcomes, outputs, activities, and inputs necessary to bring about the desired change.
Mapping impact outcome metrics using a ToC template, such as the one provided in the Actionable Impact Management (AIM) methodology, helps organizations identify the outcomes and outputs that can be transformed into measurable metrics. It also highlights any existing gaps in program delivery and evaluation.
It is important to note that while measuring activities and outputs may be simpler, they do not provide a comprehensive understanding of the results of social impact efforts. Instead, organizations should focus on developing strong outcome goals and selecting outcome metrics that demonstrate the actual change or outcome of their programs. This evidence-based approach helps in scaling social impact and measuring its effectiveness.
In conclusion, social outcomes are the positive changes or impacts that result from a program, project, or initiative. By defining these outcomes and selecting appropriate metrics, organizations can effectively measure their progress towards achieving their goals and creating meaningful social change.
Mapping Impact Outcome Metrics
Above is the Theory of Change template found in the Actionable Impact Management (AIM) methodology for impact measurement. It is designed to deliver a clear understanding of the revelations outlined before (let’s recap):
- A list of outcomes to be transformed into metrics
- A list of outputs to be considered for transforming into metrics
- An ironed out visual of each program that highlights any existing gaps in program delivery and evaluation
A ToC starts with an outcome (long-term goal) and then maps backward, listing the outputs (indicators) that this outcome is coming to pass, then listing the activities necessary for those outputs to happen, and finally documenting the inputs (resources) needed for each of those activities.
In this way, each outcome documented becomes a social impact metrics set. Its outcome and some of its outputs are transformed into metrics that measure for impact results.
This is one way to structure an organization's metrics selection process to ensure a list of strategic outcome metrics linked to the organization's impact hypothesis. Once those metrics are outlined, they are ready to be built out to ensure that each one is well understood.
Social Impact Indicators Vs. Outcome Metrics
While solely measuring activities and outputs is significantly more straightforward, these types of measurements deliver little insight into the results of social impact efforts. Such measurements may also inadvertently sway how an organization delivers impact programming.
For instance, if an organization is being measured for how many students are served rather than how many went on to find a valuable career post-graduation (the organization's mission), that organization may begin expanding class sizes to serve more students, potentially diluting each student’s experience.
Taking the concept of indicators a bit further, many organizations use indicators to imply impact without actually showing that the organization's activities actually created any impact. Not only can this be disingenuous, but it can also create a false sense of impact achievement, thus hurting beneficiaries and putting at risk the ability to raise capital (impact investors, donors, and philanthropists are more and more sensitive to impact-washing).
Instead, Mission-driven organizations should focus on developing a strong social change strategy using a theory of change or logic model to build a strong evidence-based approach to scale social impact and measure its effectiveness.
These organizations must develop strong outcome goals to be able to do the latter. Outcome metrics are metrics designed to demonstrate a change or outcome of a program, project, product, or service. So, how do we select outcome metrics and assess such outcomes?