SIM TIG Week: The Many Faces of Social Impact Measurement by Leah Goldstein Moses and Jill Lipski Cain

This is Leah Goldstein Moses and Jill Lipski Cain of The Improve Group, an evaluation firm based in Minnesota. We are members of The Improve Group’s new practice area focused on how market-based strategies are used to make a social impact. We have the pleasure of introducing this week’s focus on social impact measurement (SIM) for innovative finance and market solutions, with contributions from the SIM Topical Interest Group.

Measuring social impact offers a new perspective into the bigger forces that affect all of us. As we interact with social media, consume goods and services, and work, it’s exciting to consider how our actions have the potential for positive or negative social impact.

In our role as evaluators, we have had several opportunities to learn about social impact. We consulted with companies and foundations interested in making a social impact to understand the business case for social investment; how to synthesize the investors’ interests with social outcomes; and the importance of knowing the field, the appetite of consumers, and where to push the boundaries in the name of social change.  To further learn about social impact, we worked pro bono with a handful of newly formed public benefit corporations (PBCs) in Minnesota to craft logic models and articulate their intended social change.

As you’ll read all week, there is great potential and need for SIM in the private sector. We continue to be inspired and we are excited about the learning possibilities through the TIG – like the blog posts coming your way – because of the almost overwhelming complexity in which the private sector intersects with social impact. For example:

  • The financing/investment instrument itself can be intended to lead to a social impact – by clearly articulating outcomes, and then only paying for those results. ­­
  • Products and services can have a positive social impact, such as higher-efficiency/lower cost lighting, beauty products designed for underserved communities, etc. When The Improve Group became a Public Benefit Corporation in 2016, this was the social impact model we pursued.
  • Companies can attempt to have a social impact through their hiring, recruitment, and retention strategies – bringing more opportunities to specific targeted groups. As described in a recent Atlantic article, many companies want to benefit from broader perspectives – and avoid discriminating, whether intentionally or not.
  • Companies can choose to source products or services with a social impact in mind; for example, Minnesota-based Peace Coffee sources all its coffee from small-scale cooperatives.
  • Companies can attempt to have a social impact through their brand and marketing strategies, as Dove did with its Real Beauty campaign, launched in 2004 and followed with other initiatives This strategy can flop, too, as with some now infamous examples in recent months.

Rad Resource:

Our company joined our local Impact Hub to continue learning from other social impact organizations. The hub is part of an international network with resources in many cities around the world.

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

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