Navigating Outcomes to Impact: A Road Map for Assessment

Found on Flickr, by woodleywonderworks

 

The internet yields tons of information about measuring and assessing social impact, and I’m having a field day with it! Check out this organization called Mission Measurement:

About them: “Mission Measurement is a consulting firm that helps clients measure and improve social impact.” Recently, they were hired by Pepsi to develop the framework to be used when measuring the impact generated by recipients of the Pepsi Refresh campaign. Isn’t it great to know that Pepsi was thinking about the best ways to measure the impact that resulted from their campaign?!

Mission Measurement describes their approach on their website as outcomes-based. They are keyed in to the concept of finding the right measurements for different organizations (what they call the “meaningful contribution”), and then find ways to apply measurements, stating that “Measurement is not an end in itself; measurement is a system of thinking that helps organizations to achieve greater impact.” Sounds a lot like the “cultural” approach I’ve been reading about in other places – making measurement and learning part of the organizational culture.

I like a lot of what Mission Measurement is about. Reading over their recently posted Guide to Outcomes-based Strategic Planning and Program Design, I was getting tons of ideas about how some of my favorite organizations could improve upon the way they currently assess their impact – or how introducing an assessment process could really help them achieve their mission more successfully. Basically title of the guide says it all: Measure Drives Strategy, Not the Other Way Around. Can’t really be more clear than that – when organizations use impact measurements and assessments, they are then in the position of consistently questioning (perhaps a better word is investigating) their programs and activities to know if they are on the right path to achieving their missions and having positive social impact, as well as a position where they can innovate and grow.

One of the more interesting parts of this document is actually the first step of the guide – defining outcomes. Mission Measurement defines outcomes with a particular sensitivity to their contribution to impact: “An outcome is neither an activity nor is it the overall long-term goal that may take years to accomplish. Outcomes reflect desired change resulting from a particular set of programs or activities; achieving outcomes contributes to long-term impact.” So, Outcome Assessments by default add up to Impact Assessment. I really like this idea. The guide goes on to briefly run through some of the process for defining metrics, developing an action plan, and key questions, all of which will contribute to an organization’s strategy to achieve their mission through measuring and assessing outcomes (and impact). And as they say in the guide, “Strategies are mere roadmaps for producing results.” I’m so excited to use this framework, and I hope to get a closer look into the work that Mission Measurement is doing. I’ll be keeping tabs on them, and I think you all should check them out, too.

On a personal note, I just got a new job in a organization in the education sector. I’ll be working with lots of data and metrics, and I’m looking forward to questioning if the data we are collecting is the most useful for assessing our outcomes and impact. Like I said before, I can’t wait to approach my new position with Mission Measurement’s framework in mind. The company works with many sectors of the nonprofit world, and luckily one of them is education. I’ll be following their developments in this area closely. Look for more blog posts on this soon!

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