I’ve been reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s book Crush It!, and it has inspired me to look into how social impact is being measured around one of my favorite things in the whole world: snowboarding.
I love snowboarding, and because I feel that I have grown as a person while I have struggled to get better at the sport, I already buy-in to the idea that snowboarding can be used in a way that produces a positive social impact. I went looking for nonprofit organizations facilitating or supporting snowboarding, and I found the website of Up2Us – a national coalition of Sports-Based Youth Development (SBYD) organizations that use sports to address critical issues facing youth – issues like childhood obesity, poor health and nutrition, academic failure and antisocial behavior.
Two organizations in the Up2Us coalition that use snowboarding to make positive social impact are Shred Love and SOS Outreach. The missions of both organizations involve serving youth through snowboarding – SOS Outreach began by serving “underprivileged” youth and Shred Love specifically identify “underserved” and “at-risk” youth as their stakeholders. I love this idea! I started snowboarding when I was about 13, after having skied for a few seasons, but the past winter had had a pretty hard crash, and it seemed like snowboarding would be easier and more fun. Even though I love playing team sports also, what I really loved about snowboarding was that I was able to learn it and get better at it on my own. It was hard work, but I could see, as more seasoned boarders flew past me on the mountain, what the reward would be if I kept at it – I would be able to fly like Shaun White!! I’m no where near that, obviously, but I do get my moments of air-time. Through snowboarding I gained self-confidence, I grew more patient, I was forced to let go of some of my ego, but I also learned to call upon inner strength when facing challenges. So, if through these programs youth are at all experiencing what I have through snowboarding, then I know the organizations are having a positive social impact.
So how do you measure self-confidence, patience, and inner strength?
Shred Love simply shares that: “After completing the Shred Love program, 100% of the participants felt they could succeed in life, 80% of members agreed with the statement ‘Team work is important,’ 95% of members agreed to the statement ‘I respect adults,’ and 85% of members agreed with the statement ‘I can set goals.’”
On the SOS Outreach website you can find their Program Logic Model and Supporting Documents, as well as download a PowerPoint document called an “Impact Presentation,” which discuss the “Evaluative Outcomes” of the program – Comparative skiographics, Health impacts, Positive behavioral impacts, Increases in self-esteem, Potential for increasing the likelihood of better socio-economic status, and Quantify potential long-term economic benefits to the snowsports industry. Their Evaluation Plan is broken up into two sections, process evaluation and outcome evaluation, both of which contain statements of expected impact, method of measurement, and a timeline for data collections.
I’m totally sure that snowboarding has a positive social impact. I like how the social impact assessments of these two organizations highlight some difficulties of measuring social impact, as well as some really interesting methods of measurement. So what have I got to say about the results? I still want more detail. I need a social impact report that will really speak to me about what is going on in the programming and how stakeholders are experiencing transformational change. Or, more simply, how they are being served. To get the level of detail I want would require these organizations to track their stakeholders over an extended period of time, or partner with other organizations also serving the same stakeholders to continue to be involved in collecting data. It is a big challenge, takes many resources, and one that may not pay off right away (but almost certainly will yield positive in the long-run).
Would having a standardized Outcome Assessment tool, possibly a digital database that could be shared online and be voluntary for stakeholders to opt-in to, help in maintaining data collection of the long-term? I’m looking into it. Anyone else thinking along similar lines? Or maybe someone can comment on the inherent challenges to such an idea?