Among the most critical challenges in the fields of
sustainability and the management of non profit organizations is measurement of
social impacts. Large corporations are often faced with evaluating tradeoffs
between sustainability and financial performance as they evaluate proposals and
face decisions related to job layoffs and other labor practices, environmental
responsibility, community activities, and many others.
This issue is also common in governmental and non
governmental (NGO) organizations. Philanthropic organizations are commonly
faced with resource allocation decisions of choosing which projects to invest
in to maximize the benefit to the community. A sovereign wealth fund may wonder
how to maximize the benefit of their activities to the country’s residents. A
foundation may wonder whether to invest in a for profit dairy, in non profit
primary schooling, or in non profit or for profit delivery of health programs
in Africa. And, there are many others. Each of these choices requires an
evaluation of social impacts that are often challenging. Organizations have
found that more guidance is needed as to how to make the investment decisions
that maximize social impacts and the monitoring and evaluation necessary to
determine how much social impact was created. It is also often necessary to
monetize these impacts so that social impact per dollar invested is determined
to make more effective project comparisons.
This project fills a significant void in both the literature
and practice. Non profit organizations have typically used financial metrics of
efficiency to evaluate performance when what they really want are measures of
program and organizational effectiveness that they do not know how to obtain.
Corporations and foundations are faced with similar dilemmas. They do not have
the information needed to make the necessary decisions related to the social
impact of alternative projects.
Building on extensive research completed by Dr Marc Epstein,
Distinguished Research Professor of Management at the Jones Graduate School at
Rice University along with his coauthor Dr Kristi Yuthas of Portland State
University, this project will complete phone interviews and field research to 1)
identify existing practices in identifying and measuring social impacts in
various corporations, social enterprises, foundations, and other NGOs, 2)
identify best practices, 3) develop a model and measures for social impact, and
4) provide practical guidance for individuals and organizations that need these
measures to make more effective resource allocation decisions.
This project will build on the authors’ work with major
corporations’ sustainability programs along with their extensive work with non
profit organizations work in developing countries in Africa, Asia, and South
Measuring and Improving Social Impacts: A Guide for Nonprofits, Companies, and Impact Investors –forthcoming in March 2014—based on extensive field research in North America, Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America
Making Sustainability Work: Best Practices in Managing and Measuring Corporate Social, Environmental, and Economic Impacts—2nd edition—forthcoming in March 2014--an updating of the very successful first edition with mostly new examples and updated text