Heather Esper

Mindful Metrics: Gaining Momentum With Social Enterprise Funders, Public and/or Private

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series on innovations and approaches to metrics, leading up to and including coverage from the ANDE Metrics Conference from the Ground Up Conference, hosted by the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs next week.

Regardless of constituency – from donors to social enterprises to government development agencies – the momentum behind the metrics field is accelerating. One such example is USAID’s new evaluation policy, which requires each of its operating units, including field missions, to set aside approximately 3 percent of total program budgets for evaluation. The policy also emphasizes external evaluations and places a new emphasis on using experimental or quasi-experimental methodologies to define a counterfactual and comparison group. The new policy is already having a domino effect as a result of more monitoring and evaluation work being created firms.

At the same time, private funders are increasingly requiring investment enterprises to collect metrics – some are even specifying how the metrics are collected. Investors and donors are also soliciting new research on impact to inform what is and isn’t working in development. This research continues to push the envelope with new methods to collect metrics. Funding opportunities for such research are provided by groups such as 3ie, the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation, which announced its fourth open window for proposals late last week. Meanwhile, the Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund (SIEF) closed its first call for proposals earlier this week. SIEF, a new trust fund established within the World Bank with support from the Department for International Development (DFID), seeks to understand the impact of programs on poverty alleviation in order to develop more effective policies and programs. Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) has also launched a Research Initiative to examine questions around small and growing businesses’ impact via jobs at the household level.

Alongside funders, repositories of information such as Tools and Resources for Assessing Social Impact (TRASI) serve as a place to find and assess existing tools, as well as connect with peers to learn what is and isn’t working. Development experts also are increasingly empowered to provide their perspective and guidance on what is and isn’t working through platforms such as the World Bank’s Development Impact blog, which recently turned a year old and provides impact evaluation news, views, methods and insights.

The results of these supporting initiatives include a move toward collecting new types of metrics in different ways. New tools such as Mission Measurement’s use performance and outcome metrics to assess early on whether enterprises are on track to scale. New best practices around data collection also continue to emerge, especially around electronic data collection.

Yet there are still a number of challenges to address before all enterprises are regularly collecting impact data that we can use to continue to improve our contribution to alleviating poverty. These challenges include ensuring we all are using the same language when we talk about inputs, outputs, outcomes and impacts. Another challenge ahead is to better communicate our metrics – It is particularly important that we don’t overstate or incorrectly attribute our impact individually or as a field. Challenges also surround collecting impact data in less resource intense ways. Part of the solution for this last challenge will likely depend on getting more support from funders to collect metrics, while the other aspect will relate to educating ventures on appropriate data collection methods based on the questions they are attempting to answer. Thought leaders such as those at the Center for Global Development are providing valuable insights on topics such as when rigorous impact evaluations make a difference to help ventures make educated decisions when deciding how to measure their impact.

We will discuss some of these challenges and how to move forward as a field at the ANDE conference next week (there are still a few spaces available). The conference will also highlight new tools and best practices. I am particularly looking forward to the collaborative projects that will emerge from the conference to address some of these challenges.

If you aren’t able to join us at the conference next week, please weigh in below with your responses to the following questions: What support do you think we need to address the challenges around impact measurement? Do you have any recommendations for ways we can better share data and best practices? Where do you go to find the latest monitoring and evaluation information?

We will discuss some of these challenges and how to move forward as a field at the ANDE conference next week (there are still a few spaces available).

Impact Assessment, Investing
impact investing