Demonstrating Value: What do you want to know and show?

by Garth Yule, Junxion Strategy

With the abundance of evaluation tools, methods and frameworks to choose from, it can be a steep learning curve for you, the organization leader, to know where to start when you want to show the impact of the work your organization does.

The Demonstrating Value workbook provides an accessible, practical approach to developing the content and presentation format for your organization’s work. By setting out a step-by-step series of questions, like: “what do you need to know”, “what do you want to show others”, and “what are you trying to accomplish, anyway”, the workbook lays the foundations for developing your “performance snapshot”, a two to four page document that summarizes your organization’s activities and impacts.

Much of the value to the organization using the workbook comes from the learning experience in the process of getting to the final “snapshot”. Conversations with internal stakeholders (staff, volunteers, managers), external stakeholders (funders, investors, government), and beneficiaries of the work will help you deepen your understanding of what matters most about what you do, and help define the nuances of how to collect and share data and stories in a meaningful way.

The process of developing a snapshot helps your organization self-assess three key capacities:

  1. How clearly do you know your information needs?
  2. What is your capacity to collect the information you need?
  3. What is your capacity to make use of the information collected?

This is valuable insight to have if you would like to enlist the support of a professional evaluator or other consultant, but you first need to assess your needs and clarify the scope of the project. This helps you choose specific tools or protocols for impact measurement – for example deciding whether a rigorous evaluation like Social Return on Investment (SROI) is the right fit for your needs and capacity.

This process also helps ensure that your measurement and evaluation activities are aligned with your organization’s core strategy and/or business plan (as appropriate).

A key intermediate step in creating a snapshot is completing an “information map” – a summary table of the content, which lists your goals, outcomes, indicators, and what data is available and the rationale for collecting it.  In my upcoming workshop at the SIAA Talking Data conference, I will help participants create an information map for their organization that summarizes all the content they would want to have in a periodically updated snapshot (monthly or quarterly). This is followed with a walk-through of how to plan for the data collection systems required, and how to present the content in a succinct two to four page “snapshot”.

It’s a great opportunity for organizations that would like a way to rein in their various performance management, evaluation and impact communication activities into a single, comprehensive summary that focuses tightly on what is most important to know and show about the value of their work.

This blog was originally written for our annual conference 2014 Talking Data: measurement with a message. Find out more about the conference here>>

Garth Yule, Engagement Manager at Junxion Strategy will lead the workshop What You Should Know and Show: Build Your Own Performance Snapshot at Talking Data. Read More>>

Impact Reporting - simple, practical and inspiring?

Impact Reporting - simple, practical and inspiring?

by Jaan Aps, Chairman of Estonian Social Enterprise Network and owner of Stories For Impact

Gathering the resources to build a massive power-plant… for heating a rather small wooden house? That’s how the majority of grass-root level change-makers really feel about setting up a system for evaluating and reporting their impact.  The solution is standardisation combined with one-to-one or group mentoring.

Most social purpose organisations in any country are small or medium sized. Despite looking deceivingly inconsiderable, they are the ones who – as a cluster – have the potential to fulfil the needs of most of the communities and disadvantaged groups. They are the ground for growing large-scale innovative social enterprises. Even those that do not want or succeed to grow tend to remain as indispensable stakeholders in any community-level collective impact initiative.

The following picture outlines:

  • some of the problems such organisations have in relation to the three main pillars of the social impact topic (defining, analysing and communicating); and
  • the solutions we have worked out and successfully implemented in Estonia.

The standardised format has been tried out by many of the members of the Estonian Social Enterprise Network (as a “soft” membership criterion). Also, some other civil society key stakeholders have opted to use it (e.g. Estonian Association of Large Families).

Compiling the report acts as a catalyst for learning and change for the teams of social purpose organisations. As the photo below demonstrates, we have designed it to be an exciting and challenging process for them!

SIAA’s annual conference “Talking Data: Measurement with a message” will be a great place to learn more about the format and to contribute to its further development.

My vision is to inspire at least some of SIAA’s members and friends to promote a common format that will become the impact accounting disclosure standard for social purpose organisations in their respective countries. Without strong efforts to establish such standard, the impact analysis and communication of (smaller) social-purpose organisations will forever be scattered, unnecessarily confusing and resource-consuming.

One of the main advantages of the format is that it doesn’t dictate how the content is exactly created (as long as the output accords with certain quality standards). I truly hope my workshop at Talking Data, “Simple, efficient and creative solutions for small-scale changemakers”, will spark the discussion – and give participants many valuable hints to be used in their everyday work immediately, even if the larger vision seems too far at the moment.

Below is an example of how the Estonian format looks.

  • Why should most of small-scale social purpose organisations have more than one theory of change?
  • How can we try out monetization for the organisations with no resources for research?
  • In which ways can we support the changemakers so that they really can get the reports completed despite chronic lack of time?

All those questions will be answered at SIAA’s 2014 Annual Conference in November (or earlier, if you write and ask personally).

P.S. Get to know some of the examples of social enterprise reports here and learn about the successful (ongoing) impact journey of Estonian Association of Large Families here.

Jaan Aps runs a social business called Stories For Impact. It provides solutions for identifying, evaluating and communicating societal impact. As an activist, he leads Estonian Social Enterprise Network as a voluntary chairman. Jaan Aps tweets @stories4impact.

This blog was first posted on the Talking Data conference website. Read the original blog here.

Talking Data-to-Data

Talking Data-to-Data

by Adrian Hornsby, Head of Research at Investing for Good

Everyone is data-greedy in the internet age, but how much of what we consume is “junk data” — bags of factoids, ephemera and particulars that aren’t in themselves false, but that collectively don’t say much more? Data that talks on an individual basis can be great, but often the best conversation one piece of data can have is with another piece of data, and it’s when lots of pieces get involved that higher level meanings start to emerge.

In relation to impact, a lot of attention has been given to how individual organisations collect data and write reports, but perhaps less to how these reports are being read, and — of increasing importance as more and more are generated — how they can be read in conjunction. The image of a grant-officer sitting at year-end-time with a tower of unique impact reports on their desk, and a folder full of unopened spreadsheets in their email, is a problematic one. For one it’s irritating for the grantees who have been required to write and send them, but worse it represents a severe opportunity loss for the sector, as the synthesis of multiple streams of information should be the basis for a larger understanding of what is going on.

In part this is the familiar problem of standardisation (and the associated bête noires of benchmarking, comparability etc.). But given that standardisation remains limited, and that many of the things being measured are just different, there is a more fundamental question as to how non-standard data can be collated, and even aggregated. There is also the more practical one of how this is already happening, and with what results. The use of software is part of the story, and going forward will be instrumental both in recording and assembling large compatible data sets, and in unlocking any correlations embedded within. However the promise of big data and deep learning presents equally an opening for deep biases. As soon as data starts talking to data, it may get the wrong idea about itself.

Adrian Hornsby is Head of Research at Investing for Good and will be presenting a plenary at SIAA’s 2014 Annual Conference, Talking Data: Measurement with a message, on this topic.

This blog was originally published on the Talking Data website and can be viewed here.

Read our July 2014 Newsletter

SIAA’s July newsletter is here! This month we invite you to participate in the SIAA Challenge 2014, come along to our Talking Data webinar and remind you to get your early bird conference ticket, along with plenty of social impact news and events – take a look.

Interested in receiving a monthly email giving you a round up on all things social impact? Why not sign up for our newsletter.

Using impact data for internal decision making

Internal decision makers such as senior management teams and boards should be a primary audience for impact data, analysis, and measurement but is this really the case? On the 16th July we hosted a seminar in London to get to the root of the question.

We heard from an excellent line up of speakers, who are all championing the use of impact data in internal decision making, and had a lively discussion where challenges, tips, and success stories were shared.

Here’s our top take-aways from the event:

To measure is to manage

How can you make informed decisions about your programmes, projects and business strategy without looking at the social impact of your work? Using impact data, measurements, and analysis is fundamental to the effective management of your organisation.

Measure what is meaningful to you

Measure what matters to your staff not just your funders. In organisations effectively using data for internal decision making, staff is engaged in data collection. They understand their contribution to social impact and help affect decision making from the bottom-up.

Leadership is required throughout your organisation

Commitment to data collection, measurement, and sharing of information is required on all levels of your organisation from a project officer to a mid-level manager to the chair of your board. Having impact champions throughout your organisation helps embed impact in all levels of decision making.

You have more power than you think!

Organisations can feel constricted by reporting requirements for funders, especially when they require data that may not be the most relevant to measuring social impact. Social purpose organisations are resource constrained; it is ok to question and challenge funders on their data requirements.

It’s about quality not quantity

You can make decisions from a small data sample size - look at similar organisations and sector-wide data initiatives (e.g. Justice Data Lab) to help you draw conclusions.

Be ambitious

Look at different tools, frameworks and methods for data collection. Don’t be afraid to try innovative approaches. Capturing both quantitative and qualitative data is important.

Think “good enough”

For internal decision making you can focus more on detail and less on rigour.  The data collected doesn’t have to be perfect, it needs to be “good enough” that you can start using it to make decisions.

Respect the data!

It is as just as important to look at negative impacts as well as positive impacts. Respecting and listening to data can help you make alterations to improve and could even show you an impact you never expected to have.

View more information about the seminar including speaker presentations and case-studies discussed here.

For more information about our Talking Data series including our 2014 annual conference visit and follow #TalkingData on Twitter.



Read our June 2014 Newsletter

SIAA’s June newsletter is here! This month we invite you to participate in our Talking Data seminar and webinars and remind you to get your early bird conference ticket, along with plenty of social impact news and events. – take a look.

Interested in receiving a monthly email giving you a round up on all things social impact? Why not sign up for our newsletter.

Read our May 2014 Newsletter

SIAA’s May newsletter is here! This month we introduce you to the theme of our 2014 annual conference, invite you to participate in our Talking Data webinar series and remind you to get your early bird conference ticket, along with plenty of social impact news and events. – take a look.

Interested in receiving a monthly email giving you a round up on all things social impact? Why not sign up for our newsletter.

Introducing Talking Data: Measurement with a message

Introducing Talking Data: Measurement with a message

by Eleanor Radford, SIAA

Last week we announced the theme for our 2014 annual conference and we, at SIAA HQ, are very excited about it. Talking Data: Measurement with a message invites delegates working in the field of social impact measurement and analysis to come together for two days of workshops, hotspots and networking. We will be talking about how we can make our measurements deliver the right message with the most impact.

Building on the success of our 2013 annual conference, Beyond Measurement, it was important to choose a theme that kept the momentum going and addressed some of the unanswered questions. One such question, raised by John Gargani, Gargani + Company, was how do we communicate the impact data we collect? He explains that standards for communicating data are still evolving, which is “driven by a belief that better communication leads to more effective use of impact findings.” It is certainly hard to understate the value of communicating the data we collect well. Whilst we always communicate impact with a purpose, the effectiveness of that communication rests on many other aspects.

When considering these other factors, it is important to think about who we are talking to and how we can influence them. Do we write the same report for external stakeholders and internal decision makers? Of course, what is material will change depending on who the report is targeting. For the SROI Network, materiality is defined as “[determining] what information and evidence must be included in the accounts to give a true and fair picture, such that stakeholders can draw reasonable conclusions about impact.” Yet different reports will influence different readers in different ways. So if we are changing the content of a social impact report for our audience, how do we decide what to include?

Greg Thomson, Charity Intelligence Canada, argued, in a blog for SIAA, the importance of knowing what goes in a report for charities to receive funding. He wrote, “Our report on Social Results Reporting shows that we were only able to find 34% of the information that we would like to see.” He asserts that either they are not reporting externally on the data they collect for internal decision making or they are not collecting the right information. Perhaps, then, it is apt to talk about the extent to which methodology determines what goes in a report and what standards for reporting impact look like.

By bringing together delegates from across the field, we will be able to address questions of materiality, reporting standards and how we ensure that measurements deliver the right message. Talking Data will open up international discussion and inspire our delegates to explore new ideas and hone in on some important issues. Together we can not only get data talking but shouting from the rooftops.

Interested in being involved? Click here to find out about contributing, click here for tickets or contact us for more information.


The Social Impact Analysts Association‘s (SIAA) 2014 Annual Conference, Talking Data: Measurement with a message, will be held in Toronto on November 3rd – 4th in partnership with Social Asset Measurements and Charity Intelligence Canada. Tickets are now on sale!