Social Impact Measurement Frameworks: Simple takeaways on how to build and demonstrate authentic impact

Nadia Al Yafai, ICRS Board Director

How B4SI measure the sweet spot; image courtesy of B4SI

At the 2022 ICRS Exchange, ICRS Board Director Nadia Al Yafai hosted a breakout on ‘Social Impact Measurement Frameworks’, with Samantha Reyes Ronso, of the Charities Aid Foundation, and Clodagh Connolly, Global Director at Business for Societal Impact (B4SI), formerly LBG.

With a proliferation of frameworks and a complex and ever-changing landscape, it’s a topic that is challenging for those new to CR&S and those steeped in it. After two very lively sessions, these were the main takeaways…

Yes, it can be harder to measure the ‘S’

  • The ‘E’ in ESG can be taken more seriously, better understood, and in some cases, ‘easier’ to measure and demonstrate.
  • The ‘S’ is about how we create long-term, and sometimes hard to define change, in people or communities, and with partners. There’s more stakeholder engagement needed to gain knowledge, information and share transformative change.

Thinking time at the start is critical to success

  • You won’t know all the answers at the outset, but having a good sense of outcomes will help you map your journey and actions.
  • Impact measurement is a continuum from theory of change at the highest end to metrics at the lower end. Pick a sweet spot that works for you and build and improve over time. B4SI articulate the sweet spot for integrating common impact KPIs in annual partnerships, as having common metrics built in for all parties.
  • There are many different ways to measure impact. B4SI, for example, have supported the articulation of impact in annualised Corporate & NGO programmes globally for 30 years through their practitioner frameworks. There are global frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals that could help companies demonstrate their wider contribution. There are also many investor-led aggregators & frameworks, and increasingly these are cascaded down to practitioners.
  • All of which means, don’t fall into a reporting trap! Consider the right approach for you, whether using an existing framework or identifying what works for you, your partner, and the audience you need to speak to. Pick data points that are key.
  • And think beyond numbers, to real life stories as sometimes you won’t get the hard data. Qualitative data can also show change. Build in a way to capture this from the start.

Business relevance and buy-in is key  

  • Spend time considering what really matters to your business and why the programme is valuable. You can’t solve all the problems so be clear where you can add most value.
  • Drill down within your material issue (eg. digital exclusion) to the problem/area you’re best placed to solve (e.g. youth). This will help you define/inform your programme's purpose. The more aligned your strategy to your business purpose, the more integral it will be.
  • Embedding, execution and evaluation should be key tenets of your consideration.

There has to be Shared Value

  • A collective approach is key. Get the right people in the room from the start.
  • Spend time with internal and external stakeholders and delivery partners, as the experts, to define your desired outcomes.
  • Questions to consider: Are the outcomes aligned to your agreed purpose? What’s your North Star? How will you measure it together? What are the markers of success?
  • Manage resource demands: what is the cost/benefit of obtaining the data? What do you really need versus nice to haves.
  • Measure impact on beneficiaries but also employees – recruitment, retention, wellbeing.

Like everything else, it’s a journey…

Ultimately, whilst it’s critical to understand the landscape of impact measurement, delivering strong, meaningful outcomes is personal to each company. Understanding, improving and communicating this for your business and partnership is the key to authentic impact.