I have shared one of the analytical tools, which is the theory of change, and it is a great tool to justify your social projects and gain support. So today I am going to talk about how to conduct actual solid analysis to guide your project and achieve the desired social impact.
There are some SIA guidelines available online, but it may misfits for your project to use. And most of those guidelines will not tell you the fundamental method, which is open to listening and receive unbiased feedback from customers and beneficiaries, which I think is the basic factor to access social impact. More specifically, the whole process is based on a trust relationship between your projects and beneficiaries. Adversely, you will not gain useful insights if you cannot build a solid, trust relationship with them even if you have the most sophisticated analytical tool in the whole world.
Alnoor Ibrahim, V. Kasturi Rangan, Ivy So and Alina S. Capanyola have done some excellent work to classify approaches to SIA in their 2014 and 2016 papers. 1. Social return on investment (SROI), is a method to calculate investment of social value compared with input. 2. Theory of change, to measure the whole project process. 3. Data collection to justify your social impact quantitatively and qualitatively. 4. Mission alignment methods, measuring the execution of strategy against the project’s mission over time. 5. Experimental and quasi-experimental methods are after and before evaluations that see the impact of your intervention. When measuring the social impact, those methods are not inter-exclusive, and they work aligning with each other based on the project to show the best evidence, in a way to prove that this project made social influence.
Before starting to conduct SIA, you have to understand the goal of the project’s social impact. That is to say, generating the social impact hypothesis. You have to bear the logic hypothesis in mind to guide your activities or services, otherwise the project would work as a fly without the head. You can choose this format to guide you through: If I __________ (proposed intervention or solution) , then __________ (action or activity that will result). If __________(action or activity), then __________ (impact that will result)-Reference to Acumen. You should iterate this process with your project team members to ensure that your hypothesis can work and reach to social impact. You can refer to the box below.
Now it is time to build the SIA framework. Remember that I have shown you the depth, breadth and focus in the theory of change blog, and they are important to set up whole SIA as well. The breadth of impact, or scale, talks about how many people are benefiting from your project. It includes the number of goods or services sold, distributed, performed, or implemented and the multiplier of the number of people each unit of effects if greater than 1-Reference to Acumen. The latter one is talking about how many units have been affected indirectly by your project. There are some risks you should avoid during this phase, such as counting the repeated number and identifying sales numbers as end-users number.
It is common for organizations to report the breadth of their impact, but fewer organizations will do the depth analysis to really understand how much their beneficiaries live have been changed due to their project, but this is an important element in SIA. So how to do the depth analysis? It starts by asking your end-users and building a good relationship with them. Generally, you should ask some open questions to give them more room to express their thoughts on your project. Most people would take reference of the survey to show the depth, however, the format of questions should be open and not more than 15 minutes.
The last factor is assessing the degree to which you are reaching your target population. Especially when your project has no direct control or contact with your users, you’ll need to develop ways to assess whether you’re actually reaching the ‘right’ people, and this mostly done by the survey to measure whether your targeted people are in the region of your project. For example, your project is mainly for low-income families, and you want to know the average income of your customers. The easy way is to reach your customers and make a phone survey since it won’t take them so much time and space. After conduct the phone survey, you find most of your customer is above the poverty line, which is not the ‘right’ customer. Hence some adjustments needed to take and try to get the ‘right’ customers.
Last but not least, you already created your SIA hypothesis and framework, so now all you need to do is to collect data along the way, to testify your hypothesis and work as storage leading to support your SIA. It is a long process and should be documented well, and the great result you will get once you have done those work properly. SIA analysis is a rigorous scientifical tool, and it deserves a prepared process and surprising results.
A project to resolve the social problem is good to have, and a project with strong SIA evidence is more than good. Develop the SIA and show the world your project efficiency.
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