Community Sector Banking
MEDIA, JOBS & RESOURCES for the COMMON GOOD
Opinion  |  GovernanceImpact measurement

Measuring our impact


Monday, 27th May 2019 at 4:31 pm
Geoff Mulgan
The measurement of innovation impact is rarely straightforward but it's essential to try and track what is being achieved, writes Nesta CEO Geoff Mulgan.


Monday, 27th May 2019
at 4:31 pm
Geoff Mulgan


0 Comments


FREE SOCIAL
SECTOR NEWS

 Print
Measuring our impact
Monday, 27th May 2019 at 4:31 pm

The measurement of innovation impact is rarely straightforward but it’s essential to try and track what is being achieved, writes Nesta CEO Geoff Mulgan.

Like many funders, we’re keen to understand what effect our spending is having. But impact can be captured in many different ways, not all of which give useful insights.

We are keen to share what we’ve learned about which methods work for different uses and why. With this in mind we’ve pulled together eight examples of different approaches to capturing impact that we’ve used in recent years.

Most of the time the people and organisations we fund are clearly doing good. But could we, and they, be achieving more? Are apparently good deeds having little real effect in the world?

Since we’re a funder of innovation this job of measurement is rarely straightforward. Hugely important innovations may have little effect at all in their early years. Research ideas can take time to percolate. But it’s always useful to try to track what’s being achieved.

Here are some of the ways we do that in different fields:

In investment, we track financial returns – and the value of our stake where it’s equity – as well as rigorous measures of impact on things like educational outcomes.

Our grants can also be linked fairly directly to clear measures of impact, particularly when we’re funding scaling rather than very early stage projects. Did children’s educational attainment improve both absolutely and relatively? Or did a service for older people leave them healthier and happier?

In research there are cruder measures like how many people downloaded a report or came to an event. But a moment’s reflection confirms that persuading a small group of decision makers to change their mind can sometimes be far more impactful than an opinion piece in a newspaper read by millions.

For our events we measure the simple things like how many come, but we’ve also experimented with subtler measures – like asking people six months later whether attending an event changed their work or even their life. This is important, again, because apparently useful measures like how much people enjoyed a learning session don’t correlate well with long-term results. Often we learn most from sessions that are uncomfortable and really stretch us.

Behind these examples of how we track impact are some other useful tools. There’s the standards of evidence framework which provides a good common language for describing how confident we should be in saying that anything works. There’s the 360 degree giving framework for open data which commits us and other funders to opening up data so that it’s easier for others to make sense of what we’re doing and what’s being achieved.

In the coming weeks, we’ll share eight individual case studies.

We’re sharing these examples not because they’re perfect – they aren’t – but in a spirit of openness and learning and to encourage others to do the same.

Over the last few decades foundations and other funders have passed through successive cycles in relation to measuring impact – sometimes jumping to excessive enthusiasm for measurement, and then reverting to intuition and hunch.

We’ve tried to strike a more sensible balance – using measurements to guide decisions but not using them as a substitute for judgement.

About the author: Geoff Mulgan has been chief executive of Nesta since 2011. Nesta is the UK’s innovation foundation and runs a wide range of activities in investment, practical innovation and research.

This article was first published by Nesta.


Geoff Mulgan  |  @ProBonoNews

CEO of the innovation foundation Nesta in the UK.


Got a story to share?

Got a news tip or article idea for Pro Bono News? Or perhaps you would like to write an article and join a growing community of sector leaders sharing their thoughts and analysis with Pro Bono News readers?

Get in touch at news@probonoaustralia.com.au

Get more stories like this

FREE SOCIAL
SECTOR NEWS

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Rethinking theory of change

Kevin Robbie

Tuesday, 19th November 2019 at 8:38 am

What’s your impact?

Maggie Coggan

Wednesday, 6th November 2019 at 5:20 pm

The process of measuring social impact

Contributor

Thursday, 3rd October 2019 at 7:30 am

Looking at the world through coffee-tinted glasses

Wendy Williams

Saturday, 14th September 2019 at 9:30 am

POPULAR

Our royal commission is not yet a safe place for people with disability

Emma Bennison

Wednesday, 6th November 2019 at 4:59 pm

Disability royal commission begins amid fears around support services

Luke Michael

Monday, 4th November 2019 at 12:58 pm

Report finds NFP boards lack leadership in fundraising

Luke Michael

Wednesday, 13th November 2019 at 2:30 pm

Why Australia needs more noisy charities!

David Crosbie

Thursday, 7th November 2019 at 8:58 am

Community Sector Banking
pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook

Get the social sector's most essential news coverage. Delivered free to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

You have Successfully Subscribed!