I read The New Yorker like some people read the bible. I confess that I don’t often read the fiction section, and many times skip over the Talk of the Town. The Food and Style special editions don’t really do it for me either. But for the most part, I try to read every single article and glance at every cartoon. The diversity of subjects covered by the magazine really appeals to me and gives me knowledge and insights I never would have imagined. And, admittedly appealingly for me, many of the authors of the articles tend to write from a slightly left-of-center perspective. But political leanings many times don’t even appear in articles if the topic at hand doesn’t call for it. Like in this one that I found had a really great message for Social Impact Assessment.
Atul Gawande writes in his article, Personal Best, that everyone can use a coach. Professional athletes, singers, surgeons, and he writes more in depth about the benefits of our nation’s teachers having access to coaching. Social Impact Assessment is kind of like coaching for anyone working towards a mission. Many mission-driven organizations have taken on theories of change, which really jives well with coaching – both mean acknowledging from the onset that none of us (or our processes) are perfect and that we must always be evaluating ourselves, our actions, and our impact to continuously be improving upon all of these.
Data and assessments can help by giving us a different perspective on the ways in which we are trying to positively impact the world. They can “coach” us in the sense that when we aren’t sure what is or isn’t working, they can guide us in our self-evaluation. But just as individual human coaches can be better suited as coaches in different sectors or for different personalities and working styles, there is not one overarching model of Social Impact Assessment that can fit each individual organization. Coaching is about collaboration, and a willingness to constantly learn and improve. The same can be said for Social Impact Assessment.