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Jul 1, 2024

The Academy of Givers successfully held another one of its members meetings on Impact Measurement and Management.

The Academy of Givers successfully held another one of its members meetings at the end of June, this time tackling the topic of impact measurement and management (IMM). The online session was facilitated by Adam Richards, former director of impact at Social Value International and independent advisor with 20 years of experience working in impact measurement and management. During the meeting, Adam provided an overview of key concepts and practical ideas of IMM, stressing the importance of having an effective framework for measuring and managing impact.

To start, he began with explaining the purpose of Impact Management: IMM is about making decisions to optimize the wellbeing of people affected by those decisions.

Adam stressed the role of evidence and understanding in mitigating risks and making informed (specifically stakeholder-evidence-informed) decisions throughout the project lifecycle, while also challenging the traditional approach of post-event evaluation and advocating for integrating evidence-based decision-making from the design stage.

Adam advocated for a shift from impact measurement to impact management within the social value movement. He emphasized the need for transparency, improvement, and accountability, and stressed the importance of evidence-based learning and understanding. Increasing accountability to all materially affected stakeholders means ensuring social value accounts include the impacts that matter to them. It is paramount to support iimpact management decisions that optimize well-being across different stakeholder groups. To be fully accountable, it is necessary to set ambitious targets for accountability itself.

Adam also presented the principles of Social Value International, and the significance of applying them with consistency and flexibility. The conversation delved into the complexities of determining whose value matters in profit-driven and social-focused organizations.

He also examined the global shift towards a legislated future for impact accounting and non-financial disclosure requirements. Specifically, he encouraged us to take action regardless of the legislative framework, simply because legislative processes take too long, and we are now at a moment where consumers are more and more focused on responsible business practices. They care more about the impacts of the products and services they're buying. This phenomenon is also evident in terms of employees and their motivations for who they continue to work for and with. Adam stressed the need for organisations to adapt to ensure a sustainable future.

Lastly, Adam explained the principles of social value, emphasizing their open-source nature and the importance of involving stakeholders at all stages of the process. He also stresses the need to be responsive to insights and to avoid over-claiming your impact, while maintaining transparency and verification of results.

The main points that emerged were:

  • Having a consistent but flexible framework
  • Involvement of stakeholders – all those affected by activities
  • Ensuring that we understand the consequences of activities (what changes for people)
  • Making sure we know which of the changes are most important (value of change)
  • Gathering evidence that is fit-for-purpose – providing enough precision for the decision

Toward the end of the session, participants engaged in a discussion on the importance of asking quantitative questions, other than qualitative ones, to measure the impact of projects and activities. Adam emphasized the need to understand the depth, duration, and value of change, and highlighted the importance of assessing contribution and creating meaningful impact. Lastly, he highlighted the role of flexibility in asking key questions for measurement, and the importance of focusing on the most significant changes and impacts.

To have a better idea of where to start, Adam referred to the UNDP Impact Standard for Enterprises, a decision-making framework that provides standards to organisations as a ‘best practice’ guide to help them operate more sustainably and optimize their contribution to sustainable development and the SDGs, by integrating responsible business and impact management practices into their organisational systems and internal decision-making.

A key takeaway of the session was that impact measurement is about supporting decision-making and it needs to be conceived as a process embedded in decision-making.