To attract support and investment, organizations typically must report on their social impact. However, too often, impact reporting and communication processes become basic accountability exercises filled with numbers and short-term thinking devoid of voices from communities and what a real social change process looks like.
To put it simply, philanthropic and impact investments are too often made through a linear and time-bound approach. While we want to see big bold changes, our processes for investment largely require short-term targets and quick growth. This creates a system where resources are allocated more heavily toward solving surface-level issues, mostly related to outputs and distracts from funding deeper social change processes that are required. Take the example of racial discrimination in the US. A centuries-long struggle for equality has been underway, driven and supported by racial justice movements and activists' deeper work of social normative change over generations. This work is critical, and requires substantial investment and support from a long-term perspective given the scale of the problem of racism in the US.
What is needed?
We invest in social impact and movements like Black Lives Matter, women's movements, climate justice activists, because we want to address these complex and deep-rooted societal problems, but we need to be realistic. Organizations set out to create big changes but these changes take longer than a quarter or a few fiscal years to achieve. Social impact measurement and reporting is a powerful tool that can not only support and keep organizations' accountable, but also enable us to make better decisions. Impact tracking tools and metrics can help you, but when used incorrectly, they can hurt you too. In its current form, the short-term thinking attached to funding these organizations receive has led to short-term change measurement, which has brought us to our current state of short-term thinking.
We must transform the current impact measurement paradigm. Over the next few weeks, we will be releasing a series of blogs on the importance of using stories and storytelling to build impact databases and metrics, with real use cases from diverse organizations around the world to support this transformation using methodology and technology.