Measuring impact has become an integral part of successful businesses. Being able to report and present your organization’s impact can directly affect stakeholders’ – and investors’ – confidence in your organization and its ability to achieve shared goals. Impact measurement also provides internal transparency, which helps businesses identify ways to better achieve desired results.
“When measured fairly, it increases transparency and accountability, both internally and externally,” said Dr. Tiana Rogers, Executive Director of Impact Strategy at the Sorenson Impact Center. “It’s an honest look at where you are compared to where you want to be.”
Community-based participatory research (CBR) is an impact measurement approach that Dr. Rogers and his team often use. “Impact measurement answers the ‘what,’ and CBPR is the ‘how,'” she says.
Incorporating community engagement into impact measurement helps organizations more accurately measure their impact and advance their efforts by integrating all stakeholders, including underrepresented voices. “If the people closest to the problem don’t have an equal say in the solutions, we miss opportunities for the biggest impact,” says Dr. Rogers.
In this interview, Dr. Rogers shares what “impact” means to her, the value of community engagement in impact measurement, and why this is a critical – and bold – step for businesses to take.
How do you define “impact”?
An effect is a positive or negative change as a result of an action or inaction. My understanding is that social impact is the evaluation of the social implications – positive and negative consequences – of the efforts or activities of a business or organization for a group or community. The efforts or activities include projects, programs and policies.
Why is it important to measure impact for a business, organization, or initiative?
It is important to measure the impact of any organization in order to ensure that the efforts are aligned with the desired results. Measurement acts as quality assurance to help align objectives with results and allows real-time adjustments to correct or minimize unintended effects. Intentionally measured controls.
What are the main components of measuring impact?
It is important to start with three elements:
- Have a clear concept of change. You must be able to describe what and how your efforts will build toward the desired end or goal.
- Identify key performance indicators, metrics that allow you to track your efforts for success over time.
- Build your data capacity. To do this, you need to understand what data you have and/or the information you need to answer your questions related to the success or intended impact of your efforts or initiatives.
Most businesses and organizations need to commit the necessary time and capital to address these three fundamental elements before diving into advanced impact measurement and data analytics.
What is a common misconception about impact measurement? What is the biggest challenge?
A common misconception is difficulty. While subpar is possible, it doesn’t have to be difficult. It simply requires proper and deliberate effort. The biggest challenge is fear: false evidence becoming reality. I have encountered many companies and organizations that worry about the implications of sharing their true impact. There is a belief that authenticity will tarnish a brand or reputation. In fact, when done fairly, impact measurement increases transparency and accountability, both internally and externally. It’s not about shaming or blaming, it’s about honestly looking at where you are compared to where you want to be. Only the bravest businesses and organizations engage in true impact measurement.
Please explain Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR). How does it differ from other types of research or impact measurement? What additional views can he offer?
CBPR is a method or approach to research or inquiry. In the textbook sense, it is an equitable research approach that invites businesses, organizations and communities into spaces of shared power and shared decision-making. For example, a corporation looking to create an impact fund for underrepresented entrepreneurs will ask an entity like the Sorenson Impact Center to help ensure the fund’s development process is best-practiced and incorporates impact measures from the outset. From the idea stage to implementation and sustainability, the “target population” or underrepresented entrepreneurs are integrated. CBPR will be an ongoing, inclusive and iterative process involving all stakeholders to ensure the company is maximizing the intended impact of the fund. Impact measurement answers the “what” and CBPR the “how.”
What are the benefits of community-based participatory research and how does it impact measurement?
CBPR is useful in several ways. Most importantly, it helps to develop fair procedures to alleviate systemic injustice. In other words, it focuses on the root causes – which are issues of justice and distribution of power. With more fair and justice-oriented systems, policies and practices, the need for welfare will be greatly reduced. CBPR focuses on the knowledge of all stakeholders, and greatly influences the measurement of its impact. If people closest to the problem don’t have equal input into the solution(s), we miss opportunities for greater impact.
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