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Complete Guide

Social Impact Assessment & Measurement Tools Comparisons

Comprehensive guide of tools, methods, resources!

Social Impact Assessment
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Social Impact Assessment

What is Social Impact Assessment

Social Impact Assessment have many things in common and many differences.  This is a comprehensive guide for practitioners to understand different types of measurement and management tools associated with the social impact assessment process. The importance of social impact assessment tools lies in the objective of those assessments, which is to assess and evaluate the performance of a program or intervention so that execution can be improved along with the impacts generated.

Read More: 5 Reasons to think beyond tools in Impact Management and Measurement

 

What is difference between Monitoring & Evaluation & Impact Measurement Management (IMM) Tools?

Monitoring and Evaluation tools are used primarily during the data collection process of a social impact assessment. Their purpose is to pinpoint those outcome areas of an impact intervention or program which have the most relevance for the primary stakeholders, or beneficiaries, and shed light on to what extent such outcomes are occurring. These tools are generally used when there is some kind of interaction with these external stakeholders.

Social Impact Assessment tools are used to work with, compile, analyze, and share those impact data once they are collected. Their purpose is to facilitate how an organization leverages data on an internal level for the benefit of improving internal processes and also program outcomes.   

Read More: The catch 22 of social impact measurement

Survey Tools for Outcome Measurement

Data Collection Tools:  Beneficiary Reachability

Whichever social impact assessment methodology you employ, part of the process will inevitably include collection of data.  Data is, of course, the foundation of any social impact assessment, whether you are evaluating processes or determining the extent of impact generated. Below is a breakdown of some of the tools available to make the data collection process relevant and efficient for your organization’s social impact assessment. Most fall under the category of Monitoring and Evaluation Tools, although a number of them also possess data management features. 

Mobile Offline Data Collection Tools

Online Data Collection or Survey Tools

Beneficiary Accessible Through Email

As an internet connection becomes more and more ubiquitous, data collection which leverages such a connection does as well. The benefits are obvious --  quicker collection, real-time, less resource-intensive.

sopact impact cloud for impact assessment

*It is worth noting that many of the tools mentioned in the Offline Data Collection Tools section also have online collection capabilities.

SMS & Voice Based

Students or beneficiary accessible through phone but not using email

In developed country students tend be often easier to engage SMS instead of email.  In developing country such as Bangladesh, India or China factories many laborers can only be accessed using feature phone or smart phone in a anonymous ways.

 

Depending on situation API based platform such as Twilio can be used for accessing beneficiaries or stakeholders

List of SMS APIs

If you have not integrated your business systems with a functional SMS API, your marketing strategies are not up-to-date and you might lose your clients to competitors.

The following list illustrates the most popular SMS APIs & SMS API providers that you can try today in order to make your SMS marketing campaigns effective and superior:

1. Plivo: Plivo is a global SMS web service API (and also Voice calls) for all businesses.

2. Telegram API: Telegram API is a free texting API that integrates secure messaging into your app.

3. Twilio: The Twilio API enables you to make voice calls, send SMS, and even MMS

4. MessageBird SMS Gateway API: The SMS Gateway API by MessageBird provides you with a platform for sending and receiving text messages (SMS) from all over the globe.

5. Telnyx API: Telnyx is a VoIP telecom service provider, which uses a cloud-based platform to provide access to carrier grade voice services via the internet.

6. ClickSend SMS API

7. M-OTP API

 

Read MoreHow can we improve social impact accounting?

 

 

Data Management Tools

Data Management Tools

Where does all the data you collected go? Who has access to it? How is it analyzed and shared? These crucial questions point to the need for ways to manage all kinds of data across departments and even across organizations in the impact sector. 

  • Quickbase: Between dashboards and data reporting, this code-free application building platform gives teams the power to customize data management to fit their needs.
  • Salesforce: One of the most well-known, comprehensive services on the market, you can find nearly everything you need for data management in the Salesforce suite of products.  There are many software vendor that now support specialized implementation on top of Salesforce.  Many of them provide 70-30% solution.  i.e. provide 70% base functionality.  However, reality is that you will have to ask vendor to customize software to fit your need.  Depending on your need, it can take anywhere from 3-12 months to customize.   Keeping in mid cost and time for implementation, you also have to account for the fact that you will be responsible for any future requirements changes and maintenance to fit in future changes!
  • Sopact Impact Cloud: An end-to-end solution to impact data management needs, the solutions include features for stakeholders at any point in the spectrum, improving data accessibility and how well it can be leveraged.
  • Blackbaud: A cloud software solution with a focus on social good. Their offering of products and services for nonprofits is as comprehensive as it gets, including a dashboard designed specifically to manage the outcomes tracking of a program or organization.
  • Social Solutions: Specializes in solutions for impact-oriented organizations, large and small, and includes proprietary software with reporting and measurement tools.
  • Net Suite: The self-proclaimed #1 Cloud ERP, it is used by more than 400,000 organizations from entry-level to C-suite executives to help manage data and internal processes. 
  • Airtable: Complete with mobile and desktop apps, this powerful platform allows for seamless cross-team data syncing in real-time. Its spreadsheet and other features are used by over 30,000 companies globally. Example interface shown below.

Read More: Is collective impact model the future of social change?

Social Impact Assessment or Impact Rating/Benchmark Tools

First generation impact assessment platforms focuses on gathering governance, environment and social policies to assess entrepreneurs or Small Medium Business (SMB) or Small Growing Business (SGB).  Let's look at three examples -

1. MIX Markets: For Microfinance Institutes

2. AERIS Cloud: For CDFI Institutes

3. B-Assessment:  Impact on its workers, community, environment, and customers.

4. B-Analytics: For investors, supply chain managers, business networks, and governments in helping companies to measure and improve their positive impact.

There is a major theme behind these first generation impact assessment.  Their main goal is to provide bench-marking to institutes that they focus on. 

The problem is that they try to use "impact assessment" with a broader brush.  Reality is impact is a context sensitive and cannot be measured through ratings!

 

Read More: Measuring Social and Economic Returns of Collective Impact Model

Monitoring & Evaluation Tools (M & E Tools)

Monitoring and Evaluation Suites

The goal of Monitoring and Evaluation in general is to hold ourselves accountable to our impact goals through our data. Software suites specific to M&E needs measure the progress and performance of an organization’s programs. Often these software suites are costly and obtained through grant funding. 

Article with extensive list of M & E Software 

Software tools for M&E

  • ActivityInfo: Developed in collaboration with UNICEF, this software is used in over 50 countries to optimize workflows between dispersed teams and organizations.
  • DevResults: A dashboard for managing evaluation data; offers great mapping and collaboration capabilities.
  • Synergy Indicata: Monitoring and Evaluation Software: An impressive suite of features specifically for M&E processes, from the necessary dashboards and analytics to results frameworks and cross-project data collection.
  • Granity: Remote data collection and automated reporting are just a couple of the features that this software provides to facilitate good M&E results.
  • Newdea: They have a suite of free tools to help manage your impact data and streamline your social impact assessment.

Articles

Impact Scorecard

What is Impact Scorecard Reporting Tool?

Impact Scorecard is a reporting mechanism designed to clearly communicate and track impact results by asset managers and assets.   Impact Scorecard are designed based on theory of change with key metrics, each tracked to measure performance based on baseline, target, forecast and actual results to ensure a proper social performance.

Tools like Clear Impact allow public agencies, often healthcare organizations to create impact scorecard.  While scorecard based reporting is useful in public agencies where regulatory reporting is important.

Benefit for Tools:

  • Easier to use 
  • Simpler Reporting
  • Useful in public agency where regular reporting are required from different agencies

Challenges:

  • Every organization must select their own metrics
  • Data collection, management and aggregation is not included, hence everyone has a different process 
  • Inconsistent reporting
  • Rigid reporting
  • Do not provide feedback about outcome to organization

Example:

  • Clear Impact: Web-based application for all things measuring and reporting.

Social Value or SROI Tools

Social Return on Investment Tools

What do SROI tool do and limitations

With the advent of impact investing first generation tools started with social value based measurement approach.  These tools are designed based on popularly known approach such as Social Return on Investment (SROI), lead by Global Value Exchange (GVE)

Challenges with SROI or Social Value Tools:

  • These tool simply allow you to provide a Social Return on Investment
  • Often these tool requires survey based approach which is quite limited as it doesn't consider regular data collected in different systems
  • Requires financial proxy which makes assessment of cost/benefit very subjective or research bias based. Often designed to tilt bias, which doesn't consider true context of impact.

Resource Tools Providers:

  • Sinzer: Offers impact data management solutions for defining metrics or using standardized metrics, collecting data, reporting, and more.
  • Sametrica: Demonstrate impact outcomes through their the impact data management and reporting services.  

SoPact Impact Cloud intelligently extends SROI Solution for SROI Calculation.  Unlike other SROI tools (see complete list here), SoPact Impact Cloud provides complete end to end impact measurement & management solution integrated with SROI calculation.

SROI Software List: 

Complete guide or resource directory of all SROI tools

Checklist for evaluating Software & Tools

Comprehensive, Flexible and Powerful User Experience

There are so many software & tools in the market.  Here is quick guide to evaluate them.

While we estimate 90+ organizations use MS-Excel or Google Docs today and/or Custom solutions including Salesforce, we believe it is important that program team have a clear objectives of selecting any long term tools. Process of tools or software selection must start with goals - is it raising impact capital, simply reporting to the funders and internally improving social performance based on evidence.

  1. If you are a funder, how do you want to align your impact objectives with your assets (grantee or investee)?  
  2. Do you see improving data capacity of your assets (investee/grantee) as your goals?

Keys to selection process is a tool must start with theory of change and remain as core part of a process throughout lifecycle

  • Impact Statement of Asset Manager (typically funder) and Assets (typically enterprises/non-profits)
  • Alignment of Impact Thesis
  • Due diligence
  • Rapid metrics alignment with theory of change
  • Ability to select both standard and custom indicators
  • Alignment with sustainable development goals or custom goals
  • Data Strategy
  • Program and Project Data Aggregation for Assets
  • Investee or Grantee Data Aggregation
  • Stakeholder & Beneficiary Outcome Assessment Over Time
  • Data Analytics
  • Impact Reporting that aligns with theory of change, outcome reporting and impact management goals

 

Social Impact Accounting

Social accounting is comprehensive approach to manage all social, environment and governance results and outcome of assets, asset managers and asset owners.  Mission driven organization can often use comprehensive platform such as Impact Cloud to manage social accounting.

Social Accounting is often another interchangeable term for social impact assessment.  The readers of social impact tracker should be able to safely replace all the resources mentioned in this articles. Impact Cloud is the most powerful user experience, comprehensive and flexible social accounting platform.  

 

Social Impact Assessment Methods

General analytical methods

Comparative methodology

Useful when a similar intervention or program has been implemented or affected a group of beneficiaries before. Research is conducted on these previous actions and their results and then compared to the proposed program and its desired results. You can read more on comparative analyses here. Acumen lean data method can also be leveraged to compare research done already.  

Trend projection

This method requires existing data over a period of time which can then be used to extrapolate a similar change rate forecasting into the future. If conditions have remained stable in the impact context and little changes have been made to an intervention or program this method of forecasting could be relevant. 

Population multiplier

For programs or interventions that deal with variables which are affected by population growth, this method is quite useful to make inferences about changes in those variables. For example, number of low-income housing units needed is a variable that could be affected by population in a certain area. A population multiplier method can be used to predict need and therefore scope of a program.

Statistical significance

The bedrock of most scientific studies, this method used to calculate whether the trends we see in our data are not simply the result of chance, that in fact there is a certain degree of probability that our intervention affected that change. You can read more about this method and how to implement it here.

Scenario-based methods

A strategy-planning approach, scenarios ask organizations to create a number of possible futures (thinking of macro level trends) which provide models from which to base robust strategies in the face of these future possibilities. Also called scenario planning, the results help mitigate risk, better prepare for uncertainties, and in the context of the impact sector, create interventions better designed for the emerging needs of beneficiaries.

Analysis methods and observation tools


Stakeholder analysis

Who will be affected by the evaluation? By the program or intervention? These are your stakeholders. A stakeholder analysis asks these questions, maps those stakeholders, and allows you to develop strategies to manage relationships with each stakeholder group.stakeholder analysis for social impact measurement

Participatory Rural Appraisal

Also called Participatory Learning for Action, this is a method which brings beneficiaries into the program development process using a variety of structured interactions to facilitate acquisition of information and the co-creation of solutions. This method has been used in agricultural communities mostly but has also been adapted to a variety of different contexts. The method helps ensure that the design and execution of a program is context-relevant and therefore more likely to be successful.

Participant observation

The method-of-choice in anthropological or sociological studies, it is also highly relevant as a social impact assessment tool for certain contexts. Qualitative data is collected in the form of field notes based on first-hand observation of a local context. Useful for gleaning insights on the nuances of a certain population (beliefs, day-to-day customs, etc.), such data is usually complemented with other data sources.

Semi-structured interviews and focus groups

Using a pre-written guide of thematic questions, these inquiry-based methods involve in-person conversations usually with the target community. The idea is to gently guide participants to  speak about the topics at hand (of course, without prompting the responses one would like to hear). 

Needs assessment


As the name suggests, a 
needs assessment helps establish the needs of various stakeholder groups (usually beneficiaries, although it can also be conducted for internal stakeholders as well). The results can be used to implement changes in a current intervention or to design and introduce an intervention that is well adapted to its target context.

You may like to see 3 tips for managing impact measurement projects.

Keys to Impact Measurement & Management Platform

Read and download complete social impact measurement guide

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Remember:

  • Learn inside out details of social impact measurement tools
  • Differentiation from other approach
  • Learn about outcome measurement & management

 

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Social Impact Assessment tools - Sopact

Raise capital for social entrepreneurs, nonprofits & impact investors.

  • Start your journey with the theory of change wizard
  • Align theory of change with your impact thesis or sustainable development goals, targets
  • Select metrics from global metrics repository or custom metrics
  • Provide results or forecast results if you just starting out
  • Build powerful impact report including reports aligned with impact management project

 

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