SIM TIG Week: Evaluation And Impact Investing: Webinar Series Explores Using Evaluative Thinking in Social Finance And Impact Investing by John Sherman

I’m John Sherman, co-founder and senior managing director of pfc social impact advisors and incoming program co-chair of the Social Impact Measurement TIG. pfc helps the social impact field—investors, philanthropists, and social change agents—do good, better.

Rad Resource: Aware of the tremendous opportunity for evaluators to engage impact investors, the AEA SIM TIG launched a three-part webinar series this fall designed to engage evaluators and impact investors on the opportunities for, and necessity of, using evaluative thinking in social finance and impact investing. We recognize that:

  1. The ability to assess and evaluate social impacts of investments is in its adolescence.
  2. While a small, highly skilled subset of the professional evaluation community is engaged in social impact measures of impact investments, the breadth of evaluation expertise remains underutilized.
  3. Evaluative thinking can enhance the quality and rigor—and thus the credibility of the social impacts investors and investees seek.

We also knew that to reach beyond evaluators to the investment community, we needed partners. Thankfully, the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University, the Council of Michigan Foundations, and the Mission Investors Exchange joined the AEA SIM TIG in sponsoring the series. Critically, the Johnson Center provided the webinar platform and back-office expertise and support.

The series focuses on the three program phases (planning, implementation, and recalibration), and how evaluators can use their skills in each phase. Presenters include institutional and individual investors, experienced impact investing evaluators, and an investee. Two of the three webinars are completed. The first webinar features the Rockefeller and MacArthur foundations discussing evaluative thinking during the Investment Planning Stage; the accompanying materials are here. In the second webinar, Engineers Without Borders discusses evaluative thinking during the Implementation/Active Investment Stage (accompanying materials here). The third webinar featuring the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, its MDI evaluator KKS Advisors, and the Johnson Center, is scheduled for Oct. 30.

The first two webinars are packed with insights about ways in which evaluators do and should engage investors committed to ensuring their investments do good and well. While I wasn’t surprised, I did find them encouraging because they recognize evaluators’ skills as critical to credible impact investing. Helping to articulate  a clear, “testable”  Theory of Change; developing appropriate impact indicators, associated metrics and measurement tools; ensuring community participation in identifying indicators and metrics important to them; and clarifying the differences between monitoring and evaluation of impact (and between monitoring and analysis) are concepts familiar to most evaluators, and ones that investors know (or should know) they need.

Unmentioned, however, were other skills evaluators can bring to the party. Our ability to get at the “why” behind the metrics was not addressed, nor was our field’s ability to tease out context and the complexity of social and natural systems in which impact investing is occurring. I’m not sure if we have done a good enough job of articulating why it’s important or how we can help. We can leave that to the next webinar…

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Social Impact Measurement Week with our colleagues in the Social Impact Measurement Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our SIM TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on theaea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by theAmerican Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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