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A Roadmap for Actionable Impact Management

A Roadmap for Actionable Impact Management

Originally posted by Wendy Williams @ probonoaustralia.com.au

A new series of ebooks has been launched to provide a roadmap for organisations to understand how to measure and communicate their impact to multiple stakeholders.

Actionable Impact Management: A Framework for Social Impact Measurement, Assessment and Demonstration, has been developed by the Asia-Pacific Social Impact Centre (APSIC) SoPact and the Silicon Valley Social Enterprise.

The free series, which is aimed at both practitioners who don’t know where to start the impact management journey and funders who are looking to support the achievement of outcomes, guides users through four steps of the journey: groundwork, metrics, data and communication.

APSIC researchers Dr Krzysztof Dembek and Dr Jodi York, who co-authored the report, told Pro Bono News the books were a response to problems they had been seeing across many different sectors, including not for profit, philanthropy and corporate.

“What we were consistently hearing from all of those directions is how hard it is to get these things right and really tell a good value creation story,” York said.

“In particular my tagline for this as we’ve been writing it, is ‘trying to make resources that don’t make anybody cry’.

“Because using simple language to talk about it doesn’t make it less difficult, but we want to make it a lot less intimidating.”

She said while there might not be anything in the series that was unfamiliar to people already playing in the space, they had pulled the basic building blocks together in what they hoped was a “very friendly, acceptable, non-threatening format”.

“We also work in part as educators and so we’ve tried to package it along with a lot of things that we’ve learned along the way about the use of data and data management,” she said.

“How do organisations that are probably not accustomed to working with data put good systems in place so that you’ve actually got a metric that endures, what does good practice look like, what does good reporting practice look like, that is informed by the research that we’re already doing.

“Things like how to use graphs correctly, because we ended up doing like two pages on this, if you want to compare things here’s some options, here’s how to choose between those. For a lot of people that wasn’t part of their education.”

The pair said the resource was aimed at the “zero to one crowd” who were struggling to get on the board.

Dembek said they wanted to create something that could take people from impact assessment to impact management.

“And that’s one of the most important messages that we want to send in the ebook, is that shift,” Dembek said.

“Usually what we see is there is a lot of demand for impact assessment, increasingly so, but impact assessment is just a one-off exercise, and that is it. But where it really creates a lot of potential for improvement is if it is not a one-off exercise but if it is a continuous and cyclical process that is embedded within the strategy of an organisation, and that’s where we come in.

“What we propose is that you start doing it, and do it well from the beginning and don’t think only about impact assessment but think about impact management and embedding it well into everything you do.”

York said one of the biggest barriers that many organisations faced when getting started with impact management was the sense that it must meet a certain bar in order for it to be valuable.

“It’s a problem that I think affects us in so many aspects of our life, that a little bit isn’t good enough,” she said.

“But we want people to take the message that even doing the thinking is incredibly valuable for your organisation.

“Whether you publish anything or not, actually thinking about: ‘what are we trying to get here’ and ‘what’s our theory of change’, ‘what’s the inherent logic, that hopefully is embedded in the DNA of this organisation, that we think if we do these things we’re going to get particular outcomes and larger impacts in the world’. ‘Why do we think that? What underpins that and is that sensible and can we put an evidence base to it?’”.

In terms of communication impact, which is the focus of the fourth book in the series, the pair said the key message centred on organisations being stakeholder focused, rather than “trying to write a report that is everything to everybody”.

York said: “Basically every time you communicate with any of your stakeholders you have an opportunity to tell your value creation story and actually be stakeholder focused.

“Be curious and engaged with your stakeholders, understand what matters to them so you can talk to them about your impact in ways that matter to them, while still staying true to the message that you want to get across.”

She said a number of the learnings from the series could also be applicable to other sectors.

“I think that a lot of organisations in the corporate space have got some focus on sustainability reporting and social impact sometimes sits in there and sometimes doesn’t. But some of this is based on research done on sustainability reporting as well, the principles are the same,” she said.

“Figure out what your strategy is and then figure out whether you’re actually progressing it and then tell that story.

“I think the same principles would be useful for philanthropists. Increasingly we’re working with providers of capital who are now thinking about ‘What is the impact of what I’m doing? Not just what are the beneficiaries doing but what is the impact of my capital?’ That is a really powerful question and one we hope more people are asking.”

The resources are available here.

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