What do we mean by social impact

Social impact is any positive change or impact towards addressing society’s inequities or challenges. There are multiple ways to think of social impact and we suggest that impact be seen from a holistic, rather than a reductionist perspective.

Whether it is creating a new market for producers of art, offering training to women who face gender based violence or offering job opportunities to people who would otherwise not utilize their skills are all examples of social impact.

Why measure social impact?

We believe that measuring impact is part of being a responsible business. We hold ourselves accountable through our actions and words. Measuring impact and showcasing it is part of our efforts to make sure that we hold ourselves accountable and also show how we are bringing about this impact.

While some organizations go to extremes, and are obsessive about measuring all aspects — and in some cases even inventing facts- we believe that there is no need for such an obsession with numbers or over-eagerness to claim victory over problems that in many cases are wicked problems — aka problems that are intractable and often require multiple inputs from many parties to solve. Think poverty, hunger or homelessness.

However, we do believe that measuring our impact is possible, desirable and welcome. We do this through both quantitative and qualitative means, and as researchers, we believe that this process helps inform our work, on an ongoing basis.

How our measurement of social impact is unique

For those who work in the social sectors, terms like inputs, outputs and outcomes are second nature. We obviously use these metrics to measure what goes into our work, and what we get out of it — both tangibly as well as through long-term impact.

This doesn’t mean that we blindly follow the ways of other organizations. We realize that each company — depending on its size, focus, mission prioritizes things differently.

Our principles/ values of measurement are as follows :

  1. There is no excuse for short-changing this process or for claiming victory too soon, as some organizations do.

2. We believe in measuring with integrity and also not claiming credit for things we did not do.

3. We value long-term over short-term impact and believe it is crucial for us to keep the end-goal in mind, when determining real impact : jobs created, lives changed and careers made

With this in mind, we are building a new model of measuring impact that includes the makers of the beautiful crafts/ arts. We do indeed follow participative planning, having long and well thought out meetings (and visits) with our partners, spending time with them to understand what is important to them. We build our products and offerings considering these goals and measure our impact following this.

For example, with the women’s co-op in Oaxaca that makes our chocolate, in our first two meetings, when we visited them — spread out over several months — we learnt a few things that are important to them : a. Offering young women in the community better employment prospects

B. Offering their employees ongoing training and professional development c. Expanding their market beyond Mexico

When we started designing our offerings, we kept this in mind, to make sure that we capture their needs, as much as ensuring we succeed and meet our goals as well.

More on this to come…

#social-impact #entrepreneurship #women-led business #USA #Mexico