SIM TIG Week: Social Impact Measurement: What is this all about? By Jane Reisman and Alyna Wyatt

Hi there, we’re Jane Reisman and Alyna Wyatt, Chair and Program Chair of the Social Impact Measurement TIG.

The fields of impact investing and other market solutions are rapidly advancing vehicles for addressing social and environmental goals. The Social Impact Measurement TIG is in its early stages of growth and exploration as we as evaluation professionals seek to understand and support this new and emerging field of development-oriented interventions with useful measurement practices given our expertise!

The importance of developing more rigorous measurement is particularly important in light of the defining characteristic of impact investing, innovative finance, and market-based solutions as demonstrating measurable change in social or environmental returns in addition to financial returns.

Hot Tip: Evaluators have much to offer during this critical developmental time in the maturation of measurement strategies for impact investing and other market solutions.  Reisman and Olazabal (2016) surveyed the landscape of approaches for social impact measurement and posited that the majority of measurement efforts in impact investing are best characterized as measuring standards or performance monitoring.  While these approaches are commonplace for finance-related disciplines, they are not sufficient for developing an evidence base for market solutions or for using data to manage for impact. We advocated in this landscape report for the continued growth in measurement practices that incorporate rigorous outcome or impact measurement or market systems analysis.

This week’s blogs will give us an overview of different types of innovative finance and market based solutions, and how evaluators have sought to improve the measurement of the social, economic and environmental impacts.

Rad Resources: There are a number of resources out there helping to put the ‘impact’ in impact investing and measuring impact in market system innovations.

  • The Impact Management Project (2018) facilitated by Bridges Ventures engaged over 700 stakeholders, including evaluators, to more robustly establish dimensions of impact for measuring and managing. Many of the principles that evaluators value, including clarity about outcomes, beneficiaries, contribution to unanticipated consequences are explored.
  • The Impact Toolkit, is an open source resource hub developed by the GIIN and launched only one week ago aims to address fragmentation in the understanding and accessing of impact measurement and management (IMM) tools and resources that are fit-for-purpose.
  • The Navigating Impact Project initiated by the GIIN (2017) examines academic and field research to develop logic models and their related metrics for specific social and environmental themes.
  • The Beam Exchange is a platform for knowledge exchange and learning about the role of markets in poverty reduction in developing countries. Materials explain the market systems approach and provide practical guidance for practitioners on monitoring and measuring market system changes. Loads of examples help to understand the practical realities of these approaches and tools.

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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