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Measuring Social Change: Performance and Accountability in a Complex World

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The social sector is undergoing a major transformation. We are witnessing an explosion in efforts to deliver social change, a burgeoning impact investing industry, and an unprecedented intergenerational transfer of wealth. Yet we live in a world of rapidly rising inequality, where social sector services are unable to keep up with societal need, and governments are stretche The social sector is undergoing a major transformation. We are witnessing an explosion in efforts to deliver social change, a burgeoning impact investing industry, and an unprecedented intergenerational transfer of wealth. Yet we live in a world of rapidly rising inequality, where social sector services are unable to keep up with societal need, and governments are stretched beyond their means. Alnoor Ebrahim addresses one of the fundamental dilemmas facing leaders as they navigate this uncertain terrain: performance measurement. How can they track performance towards worthy goals such as reducing poverty, improving public health, or advancing human rights? What results can they reasonably measure and legitimately take credit for? This book tackles three core challenges of performance faced by social enterprises and nonprofit organizations alike: what to measure, what kinds of performance systems to build, and how to align multiple demands for accountability. It lays out four different types of strategies for managers to consider--niche, integrated, emergent, and ecosystem--and details the types of performance measurement and accountability systems best suited to each. Finally, this book examines the roles of funders such as impact investors, philanthropic foundations, and international aid agencies, laying out how they can best enable meaningful performance measurement.


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The social sector is undergoing a major transformation. We are witnessing an explosion in efforts to deliver social change, a burgeoning impact investing industry, and an unprecedented intergenerational transfer of wealth. Yet we live in a world of rapidly rising inequality, where social sector services are unable to keep up with societal need, and governments are stretche The social sector is undergoing a major transformation. We are witnessing an explosion in efforts to deliver social change, a burgeoning impact investing industry, and an unprecedented intergenerational transfer of wealth. Yet we live in a world of rapidly rising inequality, where social sector services are unable to keep up with societal need, and governments are stretched beyond their means. Alnoor Ebrahim addresses one of the fundamental dilemmas facing leaders as they navigate this uncertain terrain: performance measurement. How can they track performance towards worthy goals such as reducing poverty, improving public health, or advancing human rights? What results can they reasonably measure and legitimately take credit for? This book tackles three core challenges of performance faced by social enterprises and nonprofit organizations alike: what to measure, what kinds of performance systems to build, and how to align multiple demands for accountability. It lays out four different types of strategies for managers to consider--niche, integrated, emergent, and ecosystem--and details the types of performance measurement and accountability systems best suited to each. Finally, this book examines the roles of funders such as impact investors, philanthropic foundations, and international aid agencies, laying out how they can best enable meaningful performance measurement.

46 review for Measuring Social Change: Performance and Accountability in a Complex World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Shane Orr

    For over a decade, the social sector has been making a shift towards outcome measurement. Donors and funders are no longer satisfied with the promise of good work, but instead want to see a measurable impact from their invested dollars, along with more accountability. On its surface, this seems like a pretty noncontroversial position to hold. However, unlike corporate success, which can often be measured simply with a return on investment, social change is often difficult to measure. How can orga For over a decade, the social sector has been making a shift towards outcome measurement. Donors and funders are no longer satisfied with the promise of good work, but instead want to see a measurable impact from their invested dollars, along with more accountability. On its surface, this seems like a pretty noncontroversial position to hold. However, unlike corporate success, which can often be measured simply with a return on investment, social change is often difficult to measure. How can organizations invest in the people and tools they need for measurement when they’re often busy just doing the work? Further, how do you measure success when cause and effect aren’t clear or when success won’t be seen from an intervention for years? Ebrahim sets out to answer these questions. He lays out a framework based on how certain an organization can be about cause and effect, and how much control they have over outcomes. Different types of performance measures should be implemented depending on the strategies that a program or intervention uses. Using case studies, four different types of performance measurement systems are detailed, contingent on the strategy chosen by the program. After walking through these examples, Ebrahim details how funders can play their role in facilitating better measurement and better results. What Ebrahim makes clear is that, in many cases, outcomes should not be the measurement chosen. For an executive director of a nonprofit, reading this was a mental shift for me, but a shift that makes sense. We often expect social service programs to shoot for outcomes as the gold standard and, further, to try to claim credit for outcomes that they don’t have much control over. By focusing on the right performance measures, greater chances of success are possible. https://medium.com/inside-shanes-brai...

  2. 4 out of 5

    John

    Super weedsy but valuable. We need "intelligent accountability" to measure social change and development, not demands for oversimplified metrics. Different organizations and causes necessitate different accountabilities based on their own needs. Skimmed more than I would normally since I was looking for the broad strokes of how to measure and implement social change. Best part imho was the elucidation of the orchestration strategy for ecosystem issues like homelessness - solitary programs can on Super weedsy but valuable. We need "intelligent accountability" to measure social change and development, not demands for oversimplified metrics. Different organizations and causes necessitate different accountabilities based on their own needs. Skimmed more than I would normally since I was looking for the broad strokes of how to measure and implement social change. Best part imho was the elucidation of the orchestration strategy for ecosystem issues like homelessness - solitary programs can only do so much, and a broader integration of systems is needed for real results. Reminds me of the community building chapters of Brooks' Second Mountain, that we are "program rich and system poor" and we would be a lot better off if funders coordinated systems together instead of naming their own foundations after themselves (looking at you, pro athletes).

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brian Larson

    Alnoor effortlessly breaks down how firms can break down how they measure social change. Alnoor provides great examples across industry and it's a perfect companion read for anyone interested in doing good & measuring performance in and out of the world of ESG. Alnoor effortlessly breaks down how firms can break down how they measure social change. Alnoor provides great examples across industry and it's a perfect companion read for anyone interested in doing good & measuring performance in and out of the world of ESG.

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    Laurie Neighbors

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    Diana Haber

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    Brandon

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    Ryan Kelsey

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    Laurie Abler

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    Kyle Flick

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    R

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    A Young Philosopher

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