Impact Measurement & Management have become vital functions for any organization trying to address the issues faced by the world; social, environmental, or economic. Donors are asking NGOs to implement it, corporates are incorporating it as a part of their CSR, and NGOs & Social Enterprises are expected to practice it. So if you are a mission-driven organization (for-profit or not for profit), there is no way you can ignore it anymore.
But despite the buzz, there is also a lack of clarity about it. What is Impact measurement & management, after all? We had all the same concerns & questions when we first started working in this field, so we understand how confusing it can be!
In this article, we will deconstruct Impact Measurement & Management for you, & demystify the beast.
So if you are a beginner in the journey of Impact measurement & management, you can’t miss this article & you should bookmark it right away!
Simply, Impact Measurement & Management is a tool, which will allow you to make sure you can
- Increase the positive effects of your projects on people & the planet, &
- Avoid the negative effects you might create in this process.
Below you will find 7 points, which will help you understand the different nuances of impact measurement & management:
1. A tool to understand the true effect of your social projects
Primarily, Impact measurement & management is a tool that helps you identify any kind of effects that your project/intervention can have on the people or the planet. These effects can be negative or positive.
e.g. an NGO distributes food to retired, old people who have no active source of income in Jakarta. The positive effect created is clear, it is helping old people with no income to receive free food & make sure they are not hungry. However, the food is packed in single-use plastic bags & most of the people just litter the bags around the distribution point. This results in excessive use of plastic bags, littering on the street, and ultimately contributes to a major environmental issue. Thus creating a non-intended negative effect.
This way, IMM makes you look at the effect of your intervention in a holistic manner & not just from the angles which look good.
2. A tool that helps you improve the net effect of your projects/interventions
As a tool, it requires you to take the next step – find ways to mitigate the negative effects you might cause & amplify the positive effects of your intervention.
As we saw in our previous example, the organization identified that their project, if continued to be implemented in this way would add to the environmental issues faced by our planet. So they looked for ways to mitigate this negative effect – how can they decrease their plastic usage in a cost-effective way? And they decided that instead of having a pick-up point for food, they would have 5 volunteers distribute the food in different localities. This will allow them to use cloth bags to carry multiple packed meals & thus reduce their plastic usage. Also reducing the littering on the street. Yes, the process became a bit more complicated but a major negative effect could be avoided.
So, impact measurement & management not only makes you look at the project holistically, but also forces you to take a step further. Find ways to ensure that the overall effect of your projects is more positive. This solution might not come immediately and you might have to cross many obstacles before finding an optimum solution but it helps you keep your eyes open.
3. Needs you to predefine clear goals & objectives
In addition, implementing IMM requires to define your goals & objectives from the start. There is no retrofitting of goals in impact measurement and management. While setting up goals, IMM principles encourage you to take into account stakeholders’ expectations, the reality of your business/field, the risks attached, and what effect you want to create on people & planet.
IMM principles also advise taking a step further & aligning your goals with either the sustainable development goals or IRIS+. There are many debates about the effectiveness of using one framework v/s another. So this would require a judgment call from your side after taking into account your intended effect, & your organization’s & stakeholders’ objectives.
4. Involves choosing an impact framework
There are many frameworks like Theory of Change, Logic Model, Results Chain, TONIIC that organizations can choose to use. This framework will provide you the structure for your impact measurement & management. Which framework you choose again depends on your investors, your field, stakeholders & other things.
Implementation of each of the impact frameworks requires a thorough understanding of the concept & a fair amount of practice. It is possible to also incorporate different elements from various frameworks e.g. combining Theory of Change with 5 dimensions of impact. But if you are just starting, it would be better if you stick to one framework – implement, make mistakes, learn & master it!
If you would like to learn more about the Theory of Change, check our other resources.
5. Choose the metrics & indicators
Another important element of IMM is choosing the relevant metrics & indicators, & setting up your targets for each of them. The extent to which you would measure (output or outcome or depth), & the metrics you choose should allow you & your stakeholders to
- See the impact your intervention created
- Make informed decisions, evaluate what needs to be changed, what needs to be kept as it is, and what needs to be leveraged more.
Again, there are many different frameworks you can use to choose your metrics like IRIS+ or SDGs.
6. Is not the same as data collection
One thing that people often confuse IMM with is data collection. Data collection, of course, forms an important part of Impact measurement but that’s not all. Many think that collecting data like how much trash you picked from a beach or how many students you taught is all that is there to Impact measurement & management. The truth, however, is that IMM requires you to take a hard look at this data & then, ask yourself some hard questions. It enables you to make informed decisions, to defend or refute the hypothesis on which you based your intervention, think more long term, & ensure that you don’t get blindsided.
7. Allows you to go deep
IMM if implemented properly allows you to go beyond the surface level understanding. Impact Management Project, a forum to build a global consensus on how to measure & manage impact talks about 5 dimensions of impact – Who, What, How Much, Contribution & Risk. This allows you to get the 360˚ view of your intervention and strengthen your intervention even further.
8. Impact Measurement & Management is Iterative
One of the things, which makes IMM so strong is its iterative nature. It requires you to pre-plan & manage, then measure and then, use this data to strengthen your decision making – impact investment, planning your intervention, understanding the risk. And keep on working in a cycle where you can continue to amplify your positive effects and mitigate the negatives.
But it is a relatively new field, and even the experts are still trying to define best practices and make the process more standardized & easier to adapt. So if you still feel a bit confused, then you are not alone. It is a journey that every human who intends to create a great impact will have to take at some point. And doing it now allows you to become pioneers in your field. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org