Social Impact Assessment & Monitoring and Evaluation tools 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 measure and evaluate the performance of a program or intervention so that execution can be improved along with the impacts generated.
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.
Impact Measurement Management 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.
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.
As the name suggestions, this method involves collecting data with tools that do not need an internet connection. Sometimes cumbersome and time- and resource-intensive , they are often necessary given the specific contexts of the communities where data is being collected.
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.
*It is worth noting that many of the tools mentioned in the Offline Data Collection Tools section also have online collection capabilities.
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.
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.
Software tools for M&E
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)
Most grant management systems tend to have grantee results collection modules or add-on products. While they brand them as impact measurement tools, fundamentally they are a survey management approach with either built-in or customized metrics approach.
One of the challenges with these systems is that they tend to demand exactly the same metrics of all the grantees creating tremendous challenges for some grantees who find most questions not relevant to their impact context. Many of these tools are not built on a structured impact framework, do not have built-in support of standard metrics, and/or have limited data types. Often reporting and analytics are not integral part of the system. You can see a review grant management software below:
Second generation tools such as B-Analytics for Impact Investing and AERIS Cloud for CDFI encourage individual organizational reporting with a focus on standard-based reporting. The following is a list of resources, tools, and toolkits to aid the social impact assessment process along this standardized approach.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Actionable Impact Management eBooks, Groundwork, Metrics, Data, and Communication. Learn More & Download.
Open Source & Practical Framework for Measuring Social Impact
- Asia Pacific Center for Social Innovation
Open Source & Practical Framework for Measuring Social Impact