SIM TIG Week: Untangling Cross-Sector Miscommunications: The Impact Management Glossary by Michael Harnar

Hi, my name is Michael Harnar and I am an assistant professor in the Western Michigan University Interdisciplinary PhD in Evaluation program, and a founding board member of Social Value US. I want to introduce you to a cool resource and invite you to participate in its development.

How many times have you had a conversation with someone on a project and you eventually realized that your definitions of key words or concepts were different from your colleague’s, and it mattered…a lot!?! Quite a few discussions at the Impact Convergence (Imp-Con) conference in Atlanta in 2016 hit on this issue of language, where, for instance, “your version of assessment and my version of assessment are different because we come from different disciplines”. These “aha” moments launched a discussion around the need to develop a resource that would cross–walk definitions used by different disciplines in the impact management and measurement space and provide insight into the etymology and common uses of such terms. Helped by financial and technical support from the Impact Management Project, and under the superb leadership of David Pritchard, members of Social Value US developed the Impact Management Glossary (IMG) which was launched in June, 2017.

Rad Resource: The Impact Management Glossary currently covers approximately 325 terms in common usage related to impact measurement in disciplines working in this space. Input into the first iteration came from accounting, evaluation, finance and impact investing, business and corporate social responsibility, economics, philanthropy, sustainable development, and social enterprise. Detailed information on the genesis of the IMG can be found here.

The glossary is not intended to be a comprehensive repository of terms used in any one discipline, or to replace discipline specific glossaries (e.g., Kylie Hutchinsons’s evaluation glossary, IRIS’s GIIN glossary). The IMG is the product of a collaborative attempt to clarify the similarities and differences in language usage among a number of disciplines that often interact yet may not be understanding each other due to these differences.

Take a look at the glossary and send us your feedback or volunteer to join the editorial board to ensure its effectiveness and usefulness. Either way, we hope you find it a useful tool and we look forward to hearing from you.

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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