Impact Metrics is a defined system or standard of measurement to track the progress of change by your organization. In the impact space, there are standard metrics and custom metrics. Standards are written by research and evaluation organizations and generally exist around focus areas or organization type. Custom metrics are created by an organization and are designed around their use case. A well-designed impact metrics focus on continuous learning and improvement of key outcomes. A good practitioner will design a holistic approach to understand multiple impact dimensions.
IMPACT METRICS FUNDAMENTALS
By definition, a metric is a quantifiable measure used to assess the result of a specific process. Selecting the right metrics can be hard, so many organizations measure the wrong things, which results in a misrepresentation of their impact.
By measuring what matters, your organization will gain credibility with funders, donors, and the public. Not to mention all the insights you will gather to plan for potential risks and make well-informed decisions.
There are two ways to define your metrics.
- Selecting them from well-known standards or
- Creating bespoke metrics.
First, let’s dive into the standard metrics. Do you know how to select the right standard for you? Try the following guidelines:
What changes are my programs or projects generating?
For example, if your impact strategy claims to be creating quality jobs, ask yourself if the jobs generated are really “quality.” It’s not enough to measure how many new jobs you are creating. Are the jobs paying enough to have a quality life? Do employers offer relevant benefits like healthcare? In this example, you have to define what you consider a quality job in your beneficiaries' context.
Who wants to know the result of my programs or projects?
Are you collecting data insights for external audiences such as your beneficiaries, funders, and the public? Or, is it for your internal audiences, such as staff and volunteers? Every one of them may like to know the result of different metrics.
Quantitative or qualitative?
I’ll give you the answer to this one: both. Numbers are helpful to show improvement over time and see trends, but they are not enough to tell a comprehensive story. Supplementing quality data with stories, images, and testimonials helps build credibility.
Outputs or outcomes?
Remember that impact refers to a systemic change, which is hard to measure. However, outcome metrics can serve as an indicator of the change happening when analyzed over time. You will find it easy to select activity and output metrics, but always make sure to include a few relevant outcome metrics.
Do you have the financial and human resources to collect the metrics results?
While selecting your metrics, don’t forget to ask if your organization has the necessary budget and capacity to collect the results for those metrics. Remember, we are not selecting metrics for the sake of it; we want to measure what matters and be able to back up the results with reliable data.
Now, as I mentioned before, there are different standard metrics that have been defined by organizations like the Global Impact Investment Network and the United Nations. These organizations dedicate resources to research and refinement of these metrics, so you have a reliable source of information.
Adapting Standard Metrics
While standard metrics are carefully worded by impact thought leaders, there is no one-size-fits-all to impact measurement. It might be the case that you identify a metric that is pertinent (aligned to one of your draft metrics), but with a few alterations, could better meet your needs. By tweaking that metric (documenting exactly how you’ve altered the base metric in your records), you can benefit from the research done to craft that careful wording, and help it better reflect the outcome of your intervention.
Unfortunately, you will find that there is very few outcome (results) metrics amongst the standards. It might be the case that you are unable to find any standards that reflect your draft outcome metrics. In that case, you can still benefit from the standards by replicating the
language when crafting your own metric.
So, what the different standards out there, and who uses them?
Different sectors tend to use different standards. First, you must know about the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals, commonly known as S-D-G. The SDG has defined indicators for poverty alleviation, education, health, environmental care, etc., and results from years of international negotiation.
IRIS metrics by the Global Impact Investors Network (GIIN) are designed to measure the social, environmental, and financial performance of impact investments.
Guidestar is a gold standard for nonprofits in the US.
Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), UNEP Sustainability Metrics, and SASB are focused on sustainable production and governance.
Now you may ask, what if these standard metrics fail to measure some of my specific outcomes?
You can always design your bespoke outcome or output metrics, but to do it effectively, we recommend you involve an impact measurement expert to make sure you indeed measure what matters.
You can always start by selecting a group of standard metrics that are outcome and output-oriented and then make modifications to fit your context. If these metrics don’t fulfill your needs, you can complement them with relevant custom metrics.
Here at Sopact, we understand that organizations just like yours face challenges while defining their metrics. So, we have included all the most important standard metrics in our platform Impact Cloud®. We help you select the right metrics based on best practices, and we can even advise you in creating custom metrics. All as part of the definition of your Impact Strategy on Impact Cloud®.
IMPACT METRICS HOW TO
- What changes are my programs or projects generating?
- Who wants to know the result of my programs or projects?
- Should my metrics be quantitative or qualitative?
- Should I measure outputs or outcomes?
- Do you have the financial and human resources to collect the metrics results?
- Select standards metrics while communicating to funders and custom metrics for internal
- You may not always find the most relevant metrics from the standards-based catalog. In fact, if you find, sometime you will have to modify to meet the context
- Mission Critical? Aligned to your Mission Statement?
- Realistic to Measure?
Will this metric be logistically manageable?
- Is it cost-effective? Already being Measured?
Or is this data already collected and accessible?
- Reason for Measuring Is this for your own measurement needs or to
report to an external entity?
- Outcome Metric?
Is this metric measuring the results of your intervention (rather than activities)?
- Worth Measuring? Based on the information above, is there a strong case for this metric? YES NO
- Keep Going Hold onto the metric
for the future or find a
Step by step Metrics Design Guide
Step One | Pick a Metric
Go metric-by-metric and fill out the associated information. You will end up with one page per metric.
Step Two | Repeat
Repeat until they're all filled out.
The idea is that you could send the completed worksheet to the person that will be reporting that metric and they will have a clear idea of the data you are expecting
For Each Metrics Associate
- Program(s): that this metric is associated with
- Label: A shortened title for the metric (i.e. for excel spreadsheets or for internal referencing.)
- What standard metric is it (based on)? Reference the original standard that this metric is based on - include a link when possible
- Data Type and Parameters: What data format would you like the metric reported in (number, text, percentage, etc.)? Are there any parameters (i.e. 0-100)?
- Usage Guidelines: Directions for getting to the data - what is needed to collect the data you are asking for in this metric. This might be a formula or a short instruction.
- Sample Answer: A shortened title for the metric (i.e. for excel spreadsheets or for internal referencing.)
- Reporting Frequency: How often will you ask for the data on this metric?
Baseline Metrics are the ‘before’ intervention measurement, in year zero of your program. This is what you will compare your metrics to as time goes on to identify the change that has occurred. You may want to be able to compare with areas outside of your intervention, such as national or regional averages. This is called ‘benchmark data.’ You might only
have one metric that you want benchmark data for, or you may decide that it’s needed for every metric.
Here are some places you can go to find benchmark data:
Since 1972, the General Social Survey (GSS) has provided politicians, policymakers, and scholars with a clear and unbiased perspective on what Americans think and feel about such issues as national spending priorities, crime and punishment, intergroup relations, and confidence in institutions.
Household Community Data
The Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) is a household survey program focused on generating high-quality data, improving survey methods, and building capacity. The goal of the LSMS is to facilitate the use of household survey data for evidence-based policymaking.
The Family Life Surveys (FLS) are a set of detailed household and community surveys of developing countries conducted by the RAND Corporation, in collaboration with research institutions in the given countries. The currently available country surveys cover Malaysia (1976-77, 1988-89), Indonesia (1993, 1997, 2000), Guatemala (1995), and Bangladesh (1996).
OECD Regional Statistics and Indicators
The OECD has developed two statistical databases to answer the increasing demand for statistical information at the regional level:
- The OECD Regional Database provides a unique set of comparable statistics and indicators on about 2 000 regions in 35 countries. It currently encompasses yearly time series for around 40 indicators of demography, economic accounts, labor market, social and innovation themes in the OECD member countries and other economies.
- The OECD Metropolitan Database provides a set of economic, environmental, social, labor market and demographic estimated indicators on the 281 OECD metropolitan areas (functional urban areas with 500 000 or more inhabitants).
National and International Statistical Agencies
OECD data are supplied by national statistical offices from member countries and presented in a comparative format. If you are seeking more detailed information or information on non-OECD countries, consult this list for an appropriate agency.
Staff Materials Time Outcome
- Programs and Grants Departments: One Securing Enduring Metrics worksheet per metric 10 minutes per metric
- Documentation of supporting information for each metric - so that no one is left with answers when reporting the data to you.
INTEGRATING CONTEXT IN IMPACT METRICS - COVID-19 USE CASE
Context makes a big difference while designing impact metrics, learn how!
Integrate Impact Dimensions When Designing Impact Metrics
Metrics should be designed with a clear goal in mind. For example, if your goal is to understand the severity of COVID-19 by state, high-level metrics like “Number of cases” and “Number of deaths” don’t tell us much.
To make more valuable comparisons about which state is doing better or worse, we can determine that it is important to see Total Deaths per Million People.
Looking at this chart it becomes clear that California, which enacted a “Shelter in Place” order earlier than other states, had a significantly lower number of deaths per million people at “48” versus New York, which has “1180” deaths/million on a given date per Worldometers. Also, even though Rhode Island has a lower number of deaths that day, the Total Deaths per Million is 226.
Diving deeper, A more relevant metric may be “Number of cases by ethnicity, economic status, and gender.” Or “Percentage of cases with a pre-existing condition or chronic disease.” Zooming in these metrics into a specific community or county could provide relevant insights on the needs of that population, rather than trying to have a “one size fits all” solution.
Standards and frameworks play a critical role in choosing the right metrics. Standards like IRIS have been in development for over 10+ years with the help of hundreds of impact practitioners.
How do you build an effective impact measurement system? What is the current state of impact measurement and management? Join us to learn from Jane Reisman and Veronica Olazabal, sharing how to integrate standards, use different frameworks for different sectors, and incorporate learnings from the data to make strategic decisions. Learn how Impact Measurement, Impact Management Project, and IRIS+ is advancing end to end impact management.
Global and National Indicators
- UN Sustainable Development Goals Sustainable Development Goals are a collection of 17 global goals set by the UN starting 2015. Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This international collaboration between 193 UN Member States and global organizations and agencies is outlined in the UN Resolution A/RES/70/1 established in September 2015.
The SDGs are seen as a step towards international collective impact efforts, focusing and guiding the interventions of humanitarian efforts around the globe.
“We don’t have plan B because there is no planet B.”
- United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon
Impact Investment Indicators
Impact investments are investments made in companies, organizations, and funds to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.
GIIN IRIS IRIS and IRIS + by Global Impact Investor's network. SoPact is well aligned with GIIN IRIS+ and impact partner.
IRIS Metrics and Standards Alignment
Impact Cloud is the most comprehensive platform that provides out-of-box theory of change, indicators & reporting. Just select a "theory of change" or "impact management project" based IRIS+ profile unique to your need, remove indicators not relevant to your need, and add key standard and custom indicators. You are ready to build out-of-box impact reporting for your context
- Opportunity Zone
- Community Investing: Aeris
- Healthy Communities: Build Healthy Places Network
- Community Banking: National Community Investment Fund (NCIF)
- Corporate Sustainability Reporting: The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
- Water Stewardship: Alliance for Water Stewardship
- Early-Stage Enterprises: Toniic
- Gender Lens (Financial Inclusion): Women's World Banking
- Financial Inclusion: CERISE and the Social Performance Task Force (SPTF)
- Healthcare Delivery: Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI)
- Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): The UN Sustainable Development Goals
- Impact Employment: The Impact Sourcing Metrics Working Group
- International Financial Institution (IFI) Private Sector Operations: IFI Working Group on Development Results Indicators Harmonization
- Land Conservation: The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
- Microenterprise: FIELD
- Microinsurance: Microinsurance Network
- Off-Grid Energy: The Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA)
- Smallholder Agricultural Finance: Council on Smallholder Agricultural Finance
- Small and Growing Business (SGB): Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs
- Social Performance for Microfinance: Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX) and Social Performance Task Force (SPTF)
- Sustainable Agriculture: Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade (FAST) - Sustainable Agriculture
MONITORING AND EVALUATION INDICATORS
Included in Impact Cloud™
Nonprofit or Charity Indicators
- Guidestar US-based leading organization in recent years is focusing on the usage of standardized indicators. Their social impact indicators are applicable globally, there is a long way to go. Guidestar Social Impact Metrics Repository - GuideStar Metrics Catalog.
International Development Indicators
- Overseas Development Institute
- Bond for International Development, International development.
- Healthy People 2020 Health-related indicators, will be updated this year to 2030
- ABENGOA Sustainability in the infrastructures, energy and water
- Access to Medicine Index Access to Medicine
- Aquastat Water resources and agricultural water management.
- Behind the Brands scorecard indicator "The social and environmental. Seven themes:
Land, Women, Farmers, Farmworkers, Climate Change, Transparency, Water"
- ILO Decent Work Indicators Decent work
- IUCN Red List Established in 1964, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species has evolved to become the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global extinction risk status of animal, fungus and plant species.
- Kepler/Cheveux Inequality Footprint: Quick guide to the Aichi Biodiversity Targets
- Robin Hood - Metrics Equations
- The 10th Principle Against Corruption
- The Women's Empowerment Principles: Reporting on Progress offers practical advice on how to report on the implementation of each of the seven Women’s Empowerment Principles. It provides general reporting approaches and specific examples of disclosures and performance indicators for each Principle.
- UN Global Compact-Oxfam Poverty Footprint Poverty
- Unicef - WASH WASH Unicef - Water/Sanitation WASH
- UNSDSN indicators SDG development
- USAID - Water and Sanitation Indicators USAID leads international development and humanitarian efforts to save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance, and help people progress beyond assistance. Success in the water and sanitation sector cannot be defined by only the number of boreholes drilled or toilets built. In addition to helping communities gain first-time access to improved water and sanitation services, USAID is focusing on building strong, self-reliant, systems to deliver services beyond the life of our projects. That not only means adapting our approach but also expanding how we measure outcomes.
- WASH Pledge and Guiding Principles for Implementation
- WBCSD Forest Solutions Group KPI
- WHO Global Health Observatory indicator
- International Center for Research on Women Empower women, advance gender equality, and fight poverty.
- Women's World Banking Gender Performance Indicators
- World Bank WDI
- Yale University Environmental Performance Index
- Humanitarian Response Indicators Register
- UNICEF's Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) questionnaires Demographic and Health Surveys questionnaires
- WHO's a database of health indicators Global Reference List of 100 Core Health Indicators
- Family Planning and Reproductive Health Indicators Database
- Violence Against Women and Girls: A Compendium of M&E Indicators
Indicators for assessing the situation of older people in emergencies (RAM-OP Method)
advocacy indicators - UNICEF and SCH's guidance
- UNHCR's Emergency Standards and Indicators
- The Nutrition Cluster Indicators Registry
- Feed the Future Indicator Handbook
- IRC Outcome and Evidence Framework's indicators
- DCED's Harmonized Indicators for Private Sector Development
- Family Planning and Reproductive Health
- Community-Based Indicators for HIV Programs
- Results based financing
- Health Information System Strengthening
- Access to Medicines Index Access to Nutrition Index FOOD SECURITY
- Progress Out Of Poverty Index POVERTY
- OECD EDUCATION
- Access to Nutrition Index FOOD SECURITY
- AAAQ Framework Health: Availability, Accessibility, Acceptability and Quality.
Nor Include in Impact Cloud
- Indikit - Relief and Development Indicators, DEVELOPMENT AND RELIEF
SUSTAINABILITY METRICS (CSR METRICS)
Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is dedicated to sustainability reporting, transforming it from a niche practice to one now adopted by a growing majority of organizations.
"GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Standards are foundational to this success. With thousands of reporters in over 90 countries, GRI provides the world’s most widely used standards on sustainability reporting and disclosure, enabling businesses, governments, civil society, and citizens to make better decisions based on information that matters. In fact, 92% of the world’s largest 250 corporations report on their sustainability performance."
GRI recently linked its sustainability indicators to the SDG indicators in this SDG Compass. This guide allows those reporting on sustainability to participate in the global dialogue around the Sustainable Development Goals.
Sustainability Indicators (Business Impact Metrics) Start with SDG Compass, a comprehensive indicator library that aligns with many leading standards. Thought list is long, here are a few leading Sustainability Standards & Indicators:
Catalog Name ( Description )
- Business Call to Action Contribution to SDG
- CDP Climate Change 2017 For people and the planet to build a truly sustainable economy by measuring and understanding their environmental impact.
- CDP Water 2017 Water
- CDP's 2015 Climate Change Information Request Climate
- CDP Forests 2017 CDP's 2015 Forests Information Request CDP’s forests program helps companies and their investors worldwide understand and address their exposure to ‘forest risk commodities.’ In 2016, 365 investors with over US$22 trillion in assets backed CDP’s forest information request.
- CDP's 2015 Water Questionnaire Water
- CEO Water Mandate's Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines Water
- Development of Guidance on Extended Producer Responsibility
- Global Innovation Index Comparative score of countries helps economies evaluate their innovation performance and make informed innovation policy considerations.
- Global Rights Index Workers' rights
- GRI helps businesses and governments worldwide understand and communicate their impact on critical sustainability issues such as climate change, human rights, governance, and social well-being. This enables real action to create social, environmental, and economic benefits for everyone. The GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards are developed with true multi-stakeholder contributions and rooted in the public interest.
- GRI G4 Airport Operators Sector Disclosures
- GRI G4 Construction and Real Estate Sector Disclosures
- GRI G4 Electric Utilities Sector Disclosures
- GRI G4 Event Organizers Sector Disclosures "The Event Organizers Sector Disclosures document contains a set of disclosures for use by all organizations in the Event
- Organizers sector. The disclosures cover key aspects of sustainability performance that are meaningful and relevant to the Event.
- Organizers sector and which are not sufficiently covered in the G4 Guidelines."
- GRI G4 Financial Services Sector Disclosures
- GRI G4 Food Processing Sector Disclosures
- GRI G4 Media Sector Disclosures
- GRI G4 Mining and Metals Sector Disclosures
- GRI G4 Oil and Gas Sector Disclosures
- GRI G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines
- GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards The GRI Standards are the first global standards for sustainability reporting. They feature a modular, interrelated structure and represent the global best practice for reporting on a range of economic, environmental, and social impacts.
- GSTC Sustainability in travel and tourism
Nor Include in Impact Cloud™ (Requires a separate license or use as custom metrics)
RELATED IMPACT RESOURCES
- How to go beyond IRIS metrics while choosing your social impact metrics?
- How to effectively use IRIS indicators in the impact measurement setup
- Is Measuring Impact Worth the Financial Strain?
- You created a draft list of metrics that are outcome/output-oriented
- You finalized your list of metrics by adopting (or tweaking) standards when needed or by creating your
own custom metrics.
- Next, you will build out the supporting material for your final list of metrics.
- And finally, you will map out each metric's data journey - from collection through analysis.