I’ve really struggled in the past to explain what social impact measurement is in a way that doesn’t make people yawn at the idea of ticking a box to make funders happy. My current “exciting” way to explain it is that it’s basically “philosophy + data = better decisions to have more impact”. You need the philosophy to answer the question “What are we aiming for?” and you need the data to answer the question “Have we achieved it?” And you need both to make good decisions. The first question is woefully neglected in the sector – people take “their cause” at face value rather than looking at the first principles of why they think it’s important. For me, the first principles are interesting because it changes how you make decisions – what you want to prioritise and what trade-offs you’re willing to accept. (The second question of “Have we achieved it?” is also super interesting – I tackle it separately).
I recently did some training for Worthwhile, a graduate training scheme for “for-purpose” sector. It focused on the philosophy question, and got people to ask themselves “Why do I do what I do?” I’ve written up the different approaches one can take to this question (different approaches to “normative ethics”) and tried to draw out how it changes your decisions. It also affects how you measure but that’s a post for another time 😉