Hi, my name is Farahnaz Karim and I am the founder and CEO of Insaan Group, and Chief Impact Officer at GOODFOLIO. At Insaan, we invest in solutions to poverty. Our background comes from the monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) ethos of traditional development actors such as non-profits, the UN, and the World Bank, but we are also a ‘new actor.’ As impact investors, we work with entrepreneurs and are keen to move the evaluation field forward given the increasing standardization of impact globally.
In this piece, I reflect on the similarities and differences between traditional evaluation frameworks and ‘new’ ones.
The building blocks of impact measurement and management, orIMM, as the new actors call it, are similar to traditional monitoring frameworks based on the logical framework. A simplified example looks like this:
- Input (money)
- Activity (build a well)
- Output (well built)
- Outcome (clean water)
- Impact (reduction of water-borne diseases)
For impact investors who are moving toward measuring social and environmental change, the conceptual clarity of the logical framework remains relevant whether the impact sought is a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions or increased income for farmers.
The second similarity is that the story of change is captured best by a mix of quantitative and qualitative data. Qualitative data is inherently harder to standardize but can play a key role in impact verification.
The third similarity is that both approaches require consistent, timely, comparable, and valid data sets to enable meaningful impact analyses or performance overviews over time. The advancement of technology tools, platforms and visualization software provide an opportunity in this space.
Whereas in traditional evaluation, the raison d’être is primarily the pursuit of human or environmental change, in the new universe of investing, standard setting, and regulatory changes, these ‘new metrics’ sit along a primary or competing pursuit of financial return. The theory of change is more complex and often leads to a clash and/or complementarity of methods and disciplinary lenses: finance vs. ESG/impact.
Impact metrics are being standardized and increasingly regulated to offer greater transparency, comparability, and benchmarking within and across asset classes. In simple terms, the question is shifting from, “Where/how can I make money while managing risk?” to, “Where/how can I make money, managing risk, whilst avoiding harm and/or doing good for society and the planet?”
Impact frameworks that measure the latter aspects are constantly in flux and include the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),, the Impact Management Platform (IMP), which includes the Five Dimensions of Impact, and IRIS+, which offers standardized lists of indicators. On the ESG front, which pertains to the environmental, social and governance standards that apply to companies andpublic and private financial markets, the regulatory field is evolving.Key references include: SFDR, SSIB, SBTi, GRI, NetZero goals, UN PRI and WEF.
In other words, the fundamental difference from the traditional evaluation framework is a massive global attempt at standardization of data as a result of the merging of finance (all forms of capital) and the planet and people inclusion imperative – alongside the pursuit of prosperity.
The Next Frontier
Aside from impact verification as the next frontier, I believe that the three challenges that lie ahead are:
- A better integration of ESG and impact frameworks.
- A new model for return that embeds financial and impact data to measure overall performance such as Impact-Weighted Accounting.
- New governance models to enable business models (of all entities) to integrate human or environmental change as part of their core strategy, systems, and capabilities.
IMM for the SDGs on Coursera
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