The Common Approach to Impact Measurement and the Common Foundations

SHIFT Collaborative supports a range of partners (foundations, non-profits, community-based organizations, government) in better understanding the social and environmental impact they are having, often on complex issues. But, how can we demonstrate social impact in a meaningful way?  How can we begin to develop some common language and measures for understanding impact across funders, collaboratives and organizations working to address similar social challenges?

Most organizations are familiar with monitoring (tracking short-term outputs and outcomes) and evaluation (assessing longer-term outcomes and impact). However, impact measurement is not just about proving impact, but also about improving impact through nurturing a data-driven and evidence-informed culture that promotes results, learning and constant improvement.

Recently SHIFT Collaborative joined a national community of non-profits, social purpose organizations (SPOs), grant makers, investors and academics building a better way to measure social impact through the Common Approach to Impact Measurement.

The Common Approach to Impact Measurement emerged from Ontario’s Social Enterprise Strategy 2016-2021 that led to the creation of an Impact Measurement Task Force. The task force resulted in a report which recommended a ‘common approach’ to impact measurement that is intended to provide a foundation for sector-wide measurement and a reporting methodology that social purpose organizations can build upon and continue to evolve through insights and lessons learned. The Common Approach to Impact Measurement, based at Carleton University, was established to advance this agenda. 

The Common Approach has developed the Common Foundations:  five essential practices that social purpose groups can use to help guide their planning and evaluation process. Meaningful stakeholder engagement is fundamental to all five practices.

Mapping iconPlan your intended change.
Ruler iconUse performance measures.
Collect iconCollect useful information.
Guage iconGauge performance and impact.
Report iconReport on results.

Ultimately, the Common Foundations for Impact Measurement will allow social purpose organizations across Canada to measure what’s meaningful to them, but share these measures across the Common Impact community, creating a more coherent story of how we describe, measure and understand social impact on a whole range of issues.

Five common foundations for impact measurement illustration.

The Common Approach seeks to strike a balance between SPO’s need for some common language and methods (to facilitate learning and encourage additional investment), with the need for measurement to be flexible and supportive. 

We look forward to working with this community of practitioners working towards building a better way to measure social impact.

Common Approach to Impact Measurement logo.
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