Hi everyone! I’m Leah, founder & CEO of The Improve Group. Today I’m writing about the messy middle ground that I sometimes get to play in – the space where I’m both the evaluated and the evaluator.
Let me start with a little context. The Improve Group is a mission-focused evaluation consultancy. In Minnesota, where we are based, mission-focused companies can use a special corporate form called “public benefit corporation”. Companies that do this are responsible to both their shareholders (maximizing shareholder value) and their stakeholders (to have a positive benefit).
Over the last four years, we’ve shown this responsibility with an annual impact assessment and report. We use six steps to evaluate and share our impact:
1. Align our areas of impact with the United Nation’s sustainable development goals.
|Sustainable Development Goal||Alignment|
|Direct impact: Decent work and economic growthSustainable cities and communities||We offer (and monitor) a great work environment and have grown our business. We partner with a number of organizations for community health.|
|Indirect impact:Good health and wellbeingQuality educationGender equalityReduced inequalityNo poverty||Our clients are working in our local community, across our State, across the United States, and globally to address a wide variety of sustainable development goals. Through our evaluation, research and strategic planning support, they are able to focus their efforts where they will have the greatest impact.|
2. Select indicators
We use standardized indicators, including those that certify benefit corporations (B Lab) and other indicators from impact investors (IRIS +). Staff help determine which ones are most relevant and what is our level of impact.
3. Aggregate data
Like many of the organizations we evaluate, we aim to leverage data that we already have. We draw on HR data, financial data, operational data, feedback from our clients, and observations.
4. Engage stakeholders to test findings
We bring our staff together to reflect on our initial findings. This process draws on Outcome Harvesting, in which stakeholders validate outcomes. In future years, a wider range of stakeholders (clients, partners, community members) could lead to deeper insights.
5. Harvest findings to learn about impact
As staff reflections started to come together, three themes emerged. These themes continue to serve us even after our evaluation wrapped up as we continue to collect data relevant to these themes.
6. Illustrating the story of our impact
Our story is most relevant to our closest stakeholders. As a public benefit corporation, we also created a public-facing version report? that describes our impact in a way that is relevant beyond our closest stakeholders.
What worked well? Having a process, existing organization data and team engagement.
What were our challenges? Limited time, few opportunities to expand beyond our closest stakeholders, and somewhat limited data.
The good news? We get to do this process again over the next few months and improve on what we’ve learned!
The American Evaluation Association is hosting 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.