Open Source Social Impact

This project is essentially creating a product to allow organisations to compare their social impact against other initiatives. I think there’s a big opportunity to turn the service of social impact measurement into more of a product so the more sophisticated approaches are affordable for the smaller charities.

The tool will provide pre- and post-intervention surveys, and an interface to load up the survey responses.  The end results for an intervention will be benefit-to-cost ratio of the benefit to the individual beneficiaries, and a comparison to the industry standard for that type of intervention (health, education, housing etc).

The product is guided by a number of principles which allow us to compare the causal impact of interventions across different sectors:

  • What we care about is the individual beneficiary and specifically subjective wellbeing (what the individual considers to make the good life) and everything else is instrumental (we use life satisfaction as the outcome).
  • The individual isn’t necessarily very good at predicting what improves their wellbeing, and so we make no assumptions about their ability to know this (we derive the impact rather than asking the individual directly).
  • What we care about is the causal impact of the intervention, not just trends associated with it (we compare the impact with a control group using difference-in-difference analysis).
  • Interventions aiming for the same outcome can vary hugely in their effectiveness (we use the organisation’s own data rather than averages for the type of programme).
  • We don’t know how the intervention has its impact and so we make no assumptions about the mechanism (we use an unconstructed value-for-money analysis).
  • Impact shouldn’t be evaluated in isolation but should also take into account the cost of delivering it and what you’re missing out on to deliver it (we show a benefit-to-cost ratio).
  • Impact evaluation should be available and affordable for organisations of all sizes (we make it free or subsidised for small organisations).
  • Better, comparable impact results mean better decisions (we plan to work with funders to drive money to the best interventions).

I’m currently using dummy data to build this, and interviewing small social impact organisations to see whether this would fit their needs.  If you’d like to trial your organisation’s impact measurement with this system, get in touch!


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