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System Change in Impact Investing Ecosystem

Posted by Unmesh Sheth on Dec 15, 2018 12:03:56 PM

Systems change is a major buzz in impact investing and impact philanthropy who are interested in improving long term social change.  NPC has very well described what System Change is. But how can achieve this? In this article, we offer unique challenges in impact ecosystem and potential solutions.

SOCAP is the world’s leading conference catalyzing the capital markets to drive positive social and environmental impact – convening the marketplace at the intersection of money and meaning. This was my fifth SOCAP representing SOPACT. Five years ago, we organized a Social Impact Measurement circle. We had leaders from Kiva, Grameen, Acumen, U of Michigan and many aspects of impact ecosystem. There was no collective  agreement or definition of social impact measurement. Fast forward 2018! I was fortunate to have a much deeper discussion with 25+ impact practitioners from different parts of impact ecosystem.

 

This year I see shift in dialogue from why we need impact measurement and management to how can we use impact management to raise impact capital?

System change starts with common impact language

The most common approach to creating an investment portfolio is to evaluate the standard metrics for risk and market assessment, typically outlined in an array of statistics and graphs.

A panel discussion "Setting the Bar for Impact Measurement and Management" many leading Asset Owners and Foundation leaders had a divergent view of current state of impact measurement.   

Across the entire panel, there was a favorable alignment towards the "Impact Management Project".   The SoPact Impact Cloud is one of the first impact management platforms that has made a tremendous commitment and demonstrated deeper implementation of the standard impact management standard outlined in the project mentioned above.  

While it is good to see progress in the state of impact measurement and management, there are still many hurdles that are worth discussing.

Christian Rosenholm from IFC highlighted a need to create a common language of impact. Connecting our deeper discussion with ecosystem players, we found that most organizations are still stuck in the first stages. 

Most organizations still do not have a quality theory of change. If they do, there is not much alignment between funders, mission driven organizations and enterprises.  While the SDGs offer global goals through which we can align and initiatives like the Impact Management Project can inform us how to manage impact, it still doesn't help with alignment issues that we see everywhere.

There are main two issues:

  1. Lack of commitment from asset owners towards impact measurement funding and punting this issue towards foundations as they feel they are natural impact first entity.  This was a clear sentiment of Mirjam Garzon Farnum, Head Business Development Private Sector, responsAbility Investments and Jamie Martin, Executive Director, Morgan Stanley. While these sentiments differs from other large asset owners, this topic is worth watching. 
  2. Graham Macmillan, Senior Program Officer, The Ford  Foundation on the other hand cautioned that there are class of impact that shouldn't be measured such as civic justice.  While, we agree that there are many class of impact shouldn't be measured, we fundamentally disagree that impact measurement is not about measurement at all.  It is fundamentally about build a strategy so that people of ground can have a faster feedback loop and common language of impact between investor and investee or grantor and grantee.  

In rest of the article we will focus on how SoPact is setting a new bar for impact measurement and management.  

Impact Strategy

At the heart of common language it is about aligning on theory of change between funders, mission driven organizations and enterprises.  To be precise, let's be clear about what we mean by theory of change.

Align theory of change of impact 

We believe that it is a joint responsibility of individually creating TOC, whether you are a funder, mission driven organization (Small and Growing Business, Social Enterprise or Nonprofits) or an enterprise (business units). A TOC allows for the building of an impact map from one's own individual perspective.

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Impact Metrics

Establishing an impact map informs the next step which is alignment around common metrics to be measured internally. These should be impact metrics that are relevant for external impact reporting

Global impact metrics and search engines simplify this process for each of the ecosystem players.  Global Impact Metrics is a repository of metrics that simply aggregates thousands of standard metrics, defines rich meta data, cross-links them and uncatalogued them by area of impact, standards and theory of change steps. Designed on most advanced search engine gives user experience similar to google search

2. Metrics Catalog

Impact Measurement 

Most organizations fear impact measurement assuming it is too complex and cost prohibitive.  The primary reason for this is that on average mission driven organization does not have enough data and technology capacity and experience.  SoPact Impact Cloud changes everything with the introduction to revolutionary design-centric metrics and data management processes.  At the heart of every results data collection, there are three types of results data collection required for external reporting.

Impact Cloud's wizard-driven approach and out-of-box gallery of templates simplifies survey, outcome and results data collection processes  Let's examine how we simplify each of them

Survey Management

For organizations providing products and conducting surveys, it is important to collect regular feedback from beneficiaries and other stakeholders. While the design of survey management is out-of-scope of this article, fundamental to a good survey management platform is built-in-libraries of survey templates such as "Progress Out Poverty Index Forms by Country" . 

The Impact Cloud also plans to provide wizard-driven survey for social impact measurement.  The platform already beautifully integrates online and offline survey data processes.  This allows organizations to continue to use their favorite survey tools and integrate results data for aggregation purpose in simple data warehouse.  

In addition, SoPact already provides a built-in online survey management tool, which is directly integrates every survey response immediately.

Outcome Management

While most organizations focus on simple activity or output measurement, a true change determination process requires outcome measurement. SoPact's wizard-driven process allows outcome measurement by first defining phases/stages in which a field manager will collect baseline data and allows for incremental evaluation based on an established scoring approach. 

Results Data Management

Results data are, broadly speaking, an aggregation of results based on a pre-established frequency.  Funders may request monthly, quarterly or annual results.  In certain cases, if certain beneficiaries are participating in multiple activities, it is important to find unique results.  Certain results may require analytics and formulas to provide good data.

Impact Cloud has intelligent data importing feature that automatically maps any external data, recommends best possible reporting format and allows changes. Once this mapping is created any time simply drop a new data after event, survey creation or any other collection. The system will do rest including analysis.

Self-Reporting

While self-reporting is often a common, most organization should move towards on the above reporting.  This is common organization that often collects data on paper, excel,  google spreadsheets or airtable.

Democratize Impact With A Free Impact Data Platform

SoPact is a mission driven organization.  Based on our hundreds of dialogues with impact leaders, we believe that democratizing impact is key to establishing a common language of impact.  Without this, high impact philanthropy, impact investment and sustainability efforts do not stand a chance to move the global impact needle.

This is why our Impact Cloud for Impact Maker is free forever for all investee/grantees (Funders can simply provide access).

Learn More:  Impact Strategy

 

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Topics: impact investing, impact strategy

Unmesh Sheth

Written by Unmesh Sheth

Unmesh is the founder of the SoPact. SoPact is a personal vision that grew from 30 years of experience in technology, management, and the social sector.