Measuring Social Impact

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This article from the Social Edge website (a program of the Skoll Foundation) aims to connect practitioners of the social benefit sector to network, learn, and share resources. It provides useful language and concepts about measuring outcomes in the social science field. Written to "social entrepreneurs," the piece explains that qualitative information can be effective in measuring social change, but one needs to be systematic in collecting and using qualitative data to evaluate programs. As a brief "how to" on developing outcomes and indicators, the authors encourage readers to be concrete about what they wish to achieve and what change they hope will occur. The authors call for users to define success in terms of measurable outcomes, and suggest looking at a continuum of change, from immediate to far reaching. The article then presents an example along with a graphic to emphasize the importance of defining clear outcomes. It goes on to define indicators and gives pointers for generating them: (1) What--Describe the condition, behavior, or characteristic that you will measure, and specify the target population you will measure; (2) How much--State the degree of change you expect to see; (3) How many--Identify the amount of change among your target population that would indicate a successful level of achievement in order to set the target for your work. Base this on an understanding of your baseline and a level of change that is reasonable for your program; (4) When--Note the timeframe in which this change should occur. The article then returns to examples to differentiate outcomes and indicators. This item closes with a list of suggested resources and an overview of the organization for which both authors work, Innovation Network.

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