Discussing Impact Measurement at the Lien Centre for Social Innovation

This April,  I  had  the  opportunity  to  spend  an  afternoon  discussing  impact measurement with nonprofit leaders in Singapore at an event hosted by the Lien Center for Social Innovation at the Singapore Management University.  I shared my own views on measurement in philanthropic and impact investing, but also learned a lot from the participants.   As I often work with nonprofits or social ventures  on  designing  their  own  impact  measurement systems,  it  is  always interesting  to  hear  what  issues  and  challenges  these  organization  face  when measuring their impact.  

Key takeaways:

 Measuring impact should not be a burden imposed on an organization by a funder, rather a management tool that helps an organization ensure it is operating effectively

 Organizations that do preventative work, such as drug use, face an extra challenge  in  measuring  impact  as  it’s  hard  to  prove  an  organization prevented a problem that did not happen!  

 In  social  investing,  the  financial  metrics  used  are  the  same  across  the board but impact metrics differ greatly from organization to organization.  Although there will always be subjectivity in a funder choosing a social investment  opportunity,  if  we  can  begin  to  use  common  metrics  for impact it will be possible to benchmark and compare social returns in a given sector.

 The IRIS metrics are becoming widely adopted throughout the impact and philanthropic investment sectors, they are simple and relevant, and can provide a way for social investors to begin benchmarking potential social returns in different sectors.