Measuring and Improving Social Impacts

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Measuring and Improving Social Impacts

A Guide for Nonprofits, Companies and Impact Investors

Identifying, measuring and improving social impact is a significant challenge for corporate and private foundations, charities, NGOs and corporations. How best to balance possible social and environmental benefits (and costs) against one another? How does one bring clarity to multiple possibilities and opportunities? Based on years of work and new field studies from around the globe, the authors have written a book for managers that is grounded in the best academic and managerial research.

It is a practical guide that describes the steps needed for identifying, measuring and improving social impact. This approach is useful in maximizing the impact of different types of investments, including grants and donations, impact investments, and commercial investments.

With numerous examples of actual organizational approaches, research into more than fifty organizations, and extensive practical guidance and best practices, Measuring and Improving Social Impacts fills a critical gap.

I congratulate Marc Epstein and Kristi Yuthas on producing a book that may well prove to be for some readers, especially for leaders in nonprofits, the most valuable they will read this year and perhaps in years to come.

on 20 Apr 2014 Bob Morris, Employee Engagement Network

Epstein and Yuthas make sense out of the often confusing world of metrics and performance measurement, offering investors, social entrepreneurs, and donors new perspectives on how to approach the challenge of measurement—and how to convert that challenge into an opportunity! They review a variety of approaches to metrics and give readers the skills needed to go from metrics as measurement to metrics as a tool for creating deeper, more sustained value. A must-have for all leaders serious about maximizing the impact of their organization and capital.

Jed Emerson, Chief Impact Strategist, ImpactAssets

This book is a great resource for anyone working to tackle today’s complex, global social challenges. Epstein and Yuthas help us ask the right questions, create meaningful measures, and adapt nimbly to test our biggest, boldest ideas and determine if they will deliver the right kind of impact.

Steven J. McCormick, President and Trustee, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

Too often, donors and investors think of social impact measurement as separate from the ‘real work’ of doing good. Epstein and Yuthas have developed a clear and practical guide to impact measurement—not just how to do it but how to think about it and integrate it into every aspect of your work. Essential reading for anyone looking to move from good intentions to high impact.

Katherina M. Rosqueta, Founding Executive Director, Center for High Impact Philanthropy, University of Pennsylvania

By posing the right questions and providing useful frameworks, Epstein and Yuthas take us on an absorbing voyage of the challenges and solutions available in the field of social impact measurement. The book is a valuable resource for investors keen to generate social impact in a thoughtful, rigorous, and transparent manner.

Nalini Tarakeshwar, Executive Director, Evidence, Measurement and Evaluation, The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, UK

Whether your annual philanthropic contribution is $5,000 or $5,000,000, this book is a must-read to move people out of poverty faster! Epstein and Yuthas provide a unique balance of introspection and global insights to ensure that impact, scale, and sustainability are achieved.

Deval Sanghavi, cofounder and Partner, Dasra Strategic Philanthropy Foundation, India

Epstein and Yuthas provide a lucid and compelling framework—a logic model—for investors, civil society actors, corporate leaders, and policy makers to use resources more effectively and yield better social results.

Rohini Nilekani, Chairperson, Arghyam

This book is an excellent reference point for social impact investing. Epstein and Yuthas have meticulously researched an impressive cross section of companies, nonprofits, foundations, and individuals to build credible metrics and analytical tools, and they offer useful insights to maximize impact.

Zarina Screwvala, Founder-Trustee, Swades Foundation

Epstein and Yuthas offer a clear and highly accessible approach to measuring and creating social impact. Drawing on a diverse array of examples from around the world, they demonstrate that there are no quick fixes and that systematic measurement is essential.

Alnoor Ebrahim, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School, and author of the award-winning 'NGOs and Organizational Change'

Measuring social impact is a topic at the top of so many agendas yet with so little real insight about how to make it real, actionable, and meaningful. Measuring and Improving Social Impacts is a practical guide for maximizing and amplifying impact. A must-read for those grappling with how to define and evaluate success.

Paul Bernstein, CEO, The Pershing Square Foundation

Although this looks like a thorough guidebook for people starting in the field of social change, it is likely to trigger considerable thinking among those who have been involved in philanthropy and the practice of social change for a long time. The desire to bring about social change is quite simple, but doing something about it can be quite complicated—this book helps you to simplify things to achieve your goals.

Madhav Chavan, PhD, CEO, Pratham Education Foundation

Measuring and Improving Social Impacts offers a useful and timely review of the many measurement approaches available to nonprofits, foundations, and impact investors. Epstein and Yuthas provide practical step-by-step guidance along with real-life stories that show how measurement is applied in action and leads to better results.

Fay Twersky, Director, Effective Philanthropy Group, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation



Part 1: What Will You Invest?

1. The Social Impact Creation Cycle

2. Understanding the Investor

Part 2: What Problem Will You Address?

3. Understanding the Problem

4. Understanding the Investment Options

Part 3: What Steps Will You Take?

5. How Social Impacts are Created

6. Linking Actions to Impacts

Part 4: How Will You Measure Success?

7. Measurement Basics

8. Measurement Approaches

9. Measuring Your Impact

Part 5 How Can You Increase Impact?

10. Social Impact Measurement Maturity

11. Amplifying Your Impact

12. Call to Action

Social Impact Self-Assessment




About the Authors

MARC J. EPSTEIN is Distinguished Research Professor of Management at Rice University in Houston, Texas. KRISTI YUTHAS is Associate Professor of Accounting at Portland State University.

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