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A pragmatic approach to demonstrating impact

16 March 2021 at 8:32 am
Ingrid Burkett
Six tips for starting an impact report for free, from Ingrid Burkett, Joanne McNeill and Matt Allen. 

A pragmatic approach to demonstrating impact
16 March 2021 at 8:32 am

Six tips for starting an impact report for free, from Ingrid Burkett, Joanne McNeill and Matt Allen. 

When it comes to impact measurement, it can be hard to know where to start. Most people now understand the need for measurement and seek to understand the “impact” of impact enterprises. But there is not yet a common understanding of how to do this in ways suitable for smaller organisations or those just starting out.

What should we measure? How can we account for value beyond financial? How can we demonstrate impact generated across multiple dimensions in often-complex entities? How can we show some sort of industry consistency while accounting for our specific context? And how is this all possible in a small, stretched team with limited financial resources or time for the task?

At The Yunus Centre, Griffith University we recently completed an Outcomes Framework and Impact Report for Logan-based social enterprise Substation33.

Through this project we uncovered and tested six learnings we think may be useful to other impact enterprises and their key stakeholders, including funders.

Here are six steps for new economy organisations to start measuring and sharing their impact right now:

1. Start with the Theory of Change

An impact map

Also called an Impact Map – use this to step-out the logic and establish a framework for your narrative.

2. Work closely with those who will be involved in the collection, storage and reporting of data to design your outcomes framework

The people involved in these steps are best placed to understand what is already available, where and when there might be opportunities to collect something new, and how to collect and store it in the most practical way. They’re often closest to the impact too, so can provide useful insights into appropriateness of indicators and other design matters.

3. Focus on existing data and processes that already occur, first

Make the most of what you’ve got. Do a deep dive of all the data and processes that already link to various stages of your Impact Map. If you only have a few, that’s still a good place to start.

In this example the team built upon an existing sign-in/off process. They added more data points to the daily fingerprint scan process to improve understanding of people’s journeys to track changes over time. Now, volunteers and staff answer one randomly allocated question each time they sign-in for the day.


Chart showing Daily Sign On at Substation33

Planned data collection during daily sign-on process at Substation33.

4. Be transparent about where you’re at

Your data set may not be perfect, but that’s ok. The important thing is to always be transparent about how robust the data is, and seek to improve it over time.

5. Do a ‘pilot’ for the first reporting cycle

Linked to point four – make your first impact report a pilot. Test and trial it, discover what works and what doesn’t, find out how your stakeholders react to it.

6. Agree a staggered implementation timeline

Don’t overwhelm your team. As you improve your methods, create space for iteration and time for new practices to develop and be integrated into daily routines.


Chart showing three stages of implementation timeline

Think about a staggered approach that is fit for purpose and reflects the reality of the organisation

We hope this helps you find a place to start, or to have deeper discussions with key stakeholders about how to better understand, monitor and demonstrate your impact. 

For further inspiration and detail around some of these points you can delve into the full Substation 33 Outcomes Framework and Impact Report 2020 here.

Ingrid Burkett  |  @ProBonoNews

Professor Ingrid Burkett is co-director of The Yunus Centre at Griffith University.

Joanne McNeill  |  @ProBonoNews

Joanne McNeill is a senior lecturer of impact innovation at The Yunus Centre at Griffith University.

Matt Allen  |  @ProBonoNews

Matt Allen is a researcher and social enterprise consultant based in Newcastle, NSW.

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One comment

  • Stuart Reid says:

    Thanks for such a useful, clear and insightful presentation of topic. I’m not sure I learnt any specific new ‘thing’ but I really valued the concise summary. That is much more useful to me than another new bit of information to cram into my already overloaded brain.

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