The Social Venture Technology Group (SVT) hosted an Impact Management Workshop on Tuesday as part of the SOCAP conference. The sold out workshop was well attended by a mix of foundation program officers, social entrepreneurs, consultants and academics.
It’s easy to know if you are doing good, but how do you know if you are doing well? This question was a key challenge for the morning session.
The gist of the workshop was a methodology for identifying key indicators to track and measure to help organizations ultimately communicate their value in 5 key areas: financial, social, environmental, operational and economic.
The three key take home messages I left with were:
1. Keep it simple: What do you really need to know to measure your impact and ensure progress? What type of proxies are available that can help you approximate your level of impact? One participant shared with me that his past company wanted to build stronger relationships with their customers and decided to measure progress by tracking how many Christmas cards they received. When SVT suggested that a organization should consider measuring a minimum of 5 up to 50 indicators, one of the participants from a foundation responded strongly that “tracking 50 indicators is kind of insane.”
How many indicators an organization measures depends on many factors, including size and resources of the organization and the needs of key stakeholders. Resist the temptation to measure everything.
2. Understand your stakeholder priorities: SVT suggests assessing each of your key stakeholders in three key areas: proximity, influence and power. The ecosystem of stakeholders might include: employees, investors, foundations, community leaders, management, contractors and government. Once you have an idea of the most relevant stakeholders for your work, determine what information is the highest priority for them. Report your data to stakeholders in a language that they understand.
3. Organizations to keep an eye on: Many new organizations have entered the impact management space over the past two years. Some of the players mentioned at the workshop included:
- The Mix Market
- SPM Network
- Global Impact Investing Network
- Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS)
Deborah Fleischer, founder and president of Green Impact, a strategic environmental consulting practice that helps companies identify key environmental issues, strengthen their relationships with stakeholders, develop profitable green initiatives and communicate their successes and challenges.
Since majoring in environmental studies in 1983, Deborah’s career has focused on environmental issues in both the public and private sectors. She is an expert in sustainability strategy, stakeholder engagement, program development and written communications. You can follow her occasional tweet @GreenImpact.