SIM TIG Week: How to best integrate respective areas of expertise toward a common purpose by Joanna Cohen

My name is Joanna Cohen, a Senior Evaluation Officer at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. At MacArthur, we take a cross-departmental, team-oriented approach to our work. This means that from the onset of any given program, representatives from every corner of the organization—including our Office of Evaluation—are collaborating to advance our program’s goals. Within this structure, I help the program team identify our information needs, measure the intended outcomes and impacts of our strategy, evaluate the extent to which our program has contributed to those results, and use what we learn from those activities to make decisions about our work. MacArthur recently launched the Catalytic Capital Consortium (C3), allocating $150 million to help address financing gaps in impact investing. I have been working with my impact investment colleagues to support C3 and, in the process, have picked up a few lessons on how to best integrate our respective areas of expertise toward a common purpose.

Lessons Learned:

Meet the impact investing field where it is and use new perspectives to inform evaluation. Start with questions about data use to develop a measurement and evaluation plan that is appropriate to the needs of impact investors and their investees.

Clarify concepts and agree on terminology. Then, use those terms consistently. When convening evaluators and non-evaluators, it is important to talk early about data expectations and the language used to describe those expectations. For instance, the term “impact” is often used more generally in the impact investing field than how it’s traditionally used in the evaluation field. 

Encourage cross-industry engagement. Invite non-evaluation colleagues to evaluation events, such as AEA’s annual conference and relevant affinity groups, like the Social Impact Measurement TIG. Likewise, evaluation professionals can seek out non-evaluation events and trainings to learn how evaluation might build on the knowledge base and practices of an existing, intersecting field.

Rad Resource:

Reports from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), and Investing for Good describe how actors across the impact investing field are incorporating measurement and evaluation principles and practices into their work. Furthermore, the GIIN highlights the “Business Value of Impact Measurement” and describes “The UN SDGs, IRIS, and the Investor Perspective,” both of which can shed light on the information needs of impact investors.

The Impact Management Project (IMP) has developed an increasingly utilized framework for defining intended social and environmental results of impact investments. Like a theory of change or outcome map in the evaluation field, the IMP framework is a tool that can provide the basis for rigorous measurement and evaluation.

Check out any number of informative impact investing convenings, including the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment Impact Summit, the GIIN Investor Forum, the Mission Investors Exchange’s National Conference, and SOCAP, and training opportunities like those through Oxford’s Impact Measurement Programme, the Mission Investors Exchange, and +Acumen’s resources on their approach to Lean Data.

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 the aea365 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 the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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