There is a great deal of debate on how to measure social impact. More simply its difficult to assess social change. It takes money, time, and creativity.
Today there are over 150 different tools and resources for assessing impact. But the science of measuring impact dates back to 1957, when one man, Donald Campbell, published Factors Relevant to the Validity of Experiments in Social Settings. This book introduced concepts that are now critically important components of social science methodology. Basically, if Campbell didn’t question whether social impact was valid, we might not have good measurement today.
Over fifty years later Tools and Resources for Assessing Social Impact (TRASI) counts over 150 approaches to measuring the impact of social programs and investments. TRASI is a project of the Foundation Center, developed in partnership with McKinsey & Co. and with input from experts in the field. The assessment approaches in TRASI were developed by a range of organizations, including social investors, foundations, NGOs, and microfinance institutions.
But just like accounting, measuring social impact is subject to abuse by those who would manipulate the rules for individual gain. What’s more important, reports McKinsey, is a process built upon 10 core beliefs designed to be self reinforcing. And they’ve designed a toolkit to help impact investors and social investors make sure they can trust the process, even though managers will always look for ways to cheat.
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