There are several key issues to consider in selecting appropriate methods and tools for evaluating impact investing. While impact measurement is often thought of as necessary to prove impact, it can and usually should also be used to improve impact.
It is also important to recognize that the term “impact” has a specific definition in the development evaluation field that is not always well-understood in the impact investing field. Consequently, many common approaches focus on the output-level, with limited analysis of outcomes and impact. In addition to a range of methodological challenges around the relevance and validity of the various approaches used in the field, there are “real world” pressures of too little time, money, and capacity.
Over the last five years, however there has been important progress in putting in place the “building blocks” of impact measurement. The Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS) have created a common taxonomy and shared language for output indicators. They are part of a larger ecosystem of initiatives linked with the Global Impact Investing Ratings System (GIIRS) for funds, and the B Analytics Ratings for enterprises (B Corp). Furthermore, a set of investor guidelines and frameworks have also been developed, along with increasing adoption of theory of change as an approach to clarify and communicate the intended impact sought by investors or investees. However, even as these tools are progressively utilized and refined, an array of additional, often complementary techniques are being developed and tested, in specific regions, sectors and organizations to add to the store of methods already available in the fields of development evaluation and social impact assessment.
The practitioner seeking to evaluate impact investing in Africa, therefore, can now choose from a menu of methods and tools that can be tailored to specific purposes, timeframes and budgets and to focus on specific units of analysis (e.g., fund portfolio, individual investment, investee, individual participant or household) and modes of stakeholder engagement. A robust, but pluralistic, approach to methods selection can draw on tools for both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis. Some notable techniques currently used in the impact investment industry include case studies, social return on investment, household surveys using the Pathways out of Poverty Index, and randomized clinical trials or other quasi-experimental methods, all, increasingly, enabled by technologies such as SMS messaging, more advanced smart-phone applications, micro-narratives, sensors and more.
Source: E.T. Jackson and Associates Ltd. 2016
Prior to the session, re-read the J.P. Morgan report referenced below, which presents an approach to impact measurement for investors. Form small groups and choose a chair and rapporteur for each. Discuss the following questions: 1) What were two examples of methods or tools that you found to be useful and applicable to impact investing in your country? Please explain. 2) Did you find that anything was missing from the methods and tools presented in the report? Please explain. Record your responses on flip charts or slides. Your rapporteur will have five minutes to present your group’s ideas to a facilitated plenary.
Adams, T., R. Gawande and S. Overdyke. Innovations in Impact Measurement: Lessons using mobile technology from Acumen’s Lean Data Initiative and Root Capital’s Client-Centric Mobile Measurement, Acumen and Root Capital, New York, No Date. https://acumen.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Innovations-in-Impact-Measurement-Report.pdf
Glennerster, R. and K. Takavarasha. Running Randomized Evaluations: A Practical Guide, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013. https://www.amazon.ca/Running-Randomized-Evaluations-Practical-Guide/dp/0691159270
Harji, K. Social Impact Measurement: Experience and Tools from the Impact Investing Industry, Presented to the Executive Workshop on Evaluating Impact Investing: Building the Field, Measuring Success, Accra, 2016. http://www.evaluatingimpactinvesting.org/Harji-IM-Overview-Accra-2016.pdf
Jackson, E.T. Interrogating the Theory of Change: Evaluating Impact Investing Where It Matters Most. Journal of Sustainable Finance and Investment, 3(2), 2013, 95-110. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271759089_Interrogating_the_theory_of_change_evaluating_impact_investing_where_it_matters_most
Jackson, E.T. Assessing the Results of Impact Investing Programs and Funds: An Overview, Presented to the Executive Workshop on Evaluating Impact Investing: Building the Field, Measuring Success, Accra, 2016. http://www.evaluatingimpactinvesting.org/Jackson-Assessing-II-Accra-2016.pdf
Maas, K. Classifying Social Impact Measurement Frameworks, Conference Board, Washington, DC, 2014. https://www.conference-board.org/publications/publicationdetail.cfm?publicationid=7334
Olsen, S. and B. Galimidi. Impact Measurement Approaches: Recommendations to Impact Investors, Social Venture Technology Group, Oakland, CA, 2008. https://www.issuelab.org/resources/27362/27362.pdf
Saltuk, Y. and A. El Idrissi. Impact Assessment in Practice: Experience from leading impact investors, JP Morgan, New York, 2015. https://www.jpmorgan.com/directdoc/impact_assessment_may2015.pdf
UNDP. Innovations in Monitoring & Evaluating Results, New York, 2013. http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/capacity-building/discussion-paper–innovations-in-monitoring—evaluating-results.html