The biggest event of the year in the impact investing sector is about to take place in San Francisco. Every Fall, Social Capital Markets, or SOCAP, brings together social entrepreneurs, investors, community and thought leaders, philanthropists and a host of other impact-minded professionals to explore the latest in mobilizing capital for social good.
The SOCAP website has listed 13 broad themes that will shape the discourse over the course of the three and half days. Among them are two that stand out from Sopact’s perspective because of the need for good impact data management: Refugees and Opportunity Zones.
Finding impact success within each of these themes is of course quite complex, but for the purpose of this article we’ll focus on how good impact data management can lead to better outcomes for the stakeholders involved in each.
Impact Data Management for Better Refugee Outcomes
According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are more than 60 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, nearly half of which are considered refugees. Of those refugees, the majority are under the age of 18. Those are staggering numbers.
At policy levels and in the private and non-profit sectors across the world there is a dire need to adequately manage the influx of data across borders and between cultures. While there are dozens (if not hundreds) of organizations doing work to better the lives of refugees, we’ll focus on the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to illuminate how data can and should be leveraged for better refugee outcomes.
With their Outcomes and Evidence Framework resource, the IRC has made clear how actors in this sector can build relevant Theory of Change models, set pertinent outcomes, and make progress towards the refugee-related goals they have set out to achieve. Diving a bit deeper, the IRC tells us:
“The IRC has defined five outcome areas–health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power–that within them contain 32 outcomes. Twenty-six of the 32 outcomes have full theories of change and indicators; the remaining six outcomes are crosscutting, with five related to gender and one to marginalized groups, and all six focused on achieving equal access, opportunities, and norms.”
The IRC has established a great industry standard with this resource and the practices they share. What is still needed is a platform through which organizations can digitally house these frameworks, manage collected data, analyze it, and share it across their partner networks.
Sopact’s Impact Cloud is one such end-to-end solution.
Because establishing outcomes and theory of change frameworks is a first step towards execution. It is not execution itself. Assessment and measurement of impact performance is an essential part of that process, and requires the right tools to manage those processes and leverage those data.
Opportunity Zones Data Management
This is a U.S.-specific policy put into legislation at year’s end in 2017 with the goal of motivating investment flow into low-income communities. Governor’s in U.S. states are given the responsibility of identifying the opportunity zones in their state, using mapping tools like this one to help make these decisions.
With the zones designated, individual and corporate investors have the opportunity to defer capital gains taxes by putting their earnings to work in those zones (re-investing the capital in these areas). According to the Impact Investing Alliance, “There are currently trillions of dollars’ worth of unrealized gains in the capital markets. If even a portion of those gains are moved to invest in distressed communities, it could have a transformative impact.”
The image above from the Economic Innovation group sheds more light on the potential benefits of this new opportunity for investors. To read a more in depth report, click here.
Okay, so what does impact data management have to do with all of this? First, it is essential that designated zones have accurate benchmark data to ensure a) it is a relevant opportunity area and b) progress (i.e. positive change) can be tracked over time after investment capital flows into the area.
This brings us to another reason why impact data management is essential for the opportunity zones process: community leaders need to be empowered to understand what data they need to be collecting, to have the right tools to do so, and the know-how to make it happen.
A cloud-based platform with existing outcomes frameworks (and the ability to customize frameworks) like the Sopact Impact Cloud is one solution that can help with this considerable impact data management need.
What’s more, it’s not a single organization or player that will need to access and leverage such data. From the state level to the investor to the organizations/enterprises on the ground, and a bunch of players in between, their needs to be transparency in how that data flow is managed. Just as there is transparency needed in how the capital flow is being allocated and monitored.
Bringing Impact Data Management Into the Conversation at Socap 2018
No doubt the panelists and attendees in the SOCAP sessions related to refugees and opportunity zones will talk about the current best practices for achieving enduring positive outcomes in these areas. What may be less visible in the discourse is the tools that are needed to make such outcomes possible. The tools need to ensure there is efficiency and accountability for stakeholders across the board.
So if you’re headed to SOCAP this year, keep the nitty gritty implementation questions in mind. Bring up these issues with other interested attendees, or ask the panelists themselves. This is how we can get from great ideas, new theories and best practices, to actually implementing them within our organizations and in the investor’s room.
Because at the end of the day and at the end of the conference, that’s where everyone will head back to and have to confront the question -- how do I implement these ideas for change in my organization?
With the right data management tools, that question won’t be so hard to answer.