SIM TIG Week: Love the Connectors: The Measurable Value of an Ecosystem Focused on Social Impact by Leah Goldstein Moses

Hi, I’m Leah Goldstein Moses, founder of The Improve Group SBC.* I have a strong love for my home town, St. Paul, which sits on Dakota lands. I am the recent chair of the Social Impact Measurement TIG. My evaluation practice emphasizes community, justice, equity and love.

There are exciting things happening in our region that mirror what’s happening elsewhere at larger and smaller scales. Our region has its share of challenges, and its share of assets, too. It has a rising community that is working to bring the power of capital and innovation to address some of those challenges. We have many investors and businesses, as well as some major corporations, that are oriented towards a positive social and environmental impact.

Amidst all that exciting innovation, there are a cadre of amazing organizations that are building an ecosystem focused on social impact that helps these players accelerate and thrive.  When measuring impact, looking at an ecosystem represents the exciting “z” variable that increases the impact of each individual player. I’d like to lift up just a few of the organizations operating in my region:

The Social Impact Strategies Group brings entrepreneurs, investors and funders together under one roof and provides urgently needed consulting services. As a Black/Native-led company, SISG know that these services help women-led, BIPOC-owned businesses to innovate and thrive. One of their signature offerings is the ConnectUp! Summit. In recent case studies of Summit attendees, we learned that the conference is one of the few spaces where women and BIPOC business owners gain exposure and access to private capital markets that have not stepped up to meet their business needs.

Impact Hub Minneapolis-Saint Paul is a diverse community of founders, creatives, investors, established companies and NGOs. The ImpactHub offers programming, community building and work space. It hosts several communities of practice, including an impact reporting community of practice that has helped a variety of entrepreneurs clarify and determine how to measure their impact. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the community of practice, and it is a delight to see the Impact Hub come into its own after being there in the early days when it was just launching.

The Venn Foundation helps social enterprises raise financing from many different philanthropic sources in the form of Program-Related Investments. Each investee gets to go through a due diligence process that includes technical assistance about impact measurement and reporting. We’ve had the opportunity to meet with several innovative businesses – tackling issues like education, housing, and health – and help to clarify their impact (or, as an evaluator would say, create a logic model).

As the founder of a social enterprise AND an someone who uses evaluation to help measure social impact, data show that these organizations are a critical component to help social entrepreneurs succeed. The collective impact of these ecosystem organizations can be seen in regional data about new business start-ups and dollars being invested. Over time, we may be able to measure the regional impact using other measures tied to the sustainable development goals.

*SBC stands for Specific Benefit Corporation. It is a form of incorporation in Minnesota that explicitly emphasizes the intention to realize a public benefit through the operation of the business.

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