Impact is a word you’ve probably seen a lot of lately if you follow much of social innovation. It’s becoming a buzzword in our industry and as with any buzzword phenomenon this has it’s pros and cons. The pro is that we are thinking about impact. I’m encouraged by this because organizations will shift to more impactful models if impact is in high demand. The down side of impact’s rise to fame is that the true meaning of the word is becoming increasingly difficult to define as more people incorporate it into their brand identities. As social innovators enter into the age of impact, I thought it timely to explore KKi’s definition of impact. We define impact as the proven change that occurs in a person’s life that is the result of the services we provide. Our definition of impact has two important components that I want to unpack: 1. Impact is a result not an action. Providing a person with a something that is meant to positively affect their life is not impact. This is more correctly called a service. Impact is the change that occurs as a result of providing the service. In KKi’s case, we provide a combination of services that includes a job, education and mentorship. Our impact is the empowerment that occurs as a result of a woman’s participation in these services. Be weary of organizations that use their actions as a metric for impact without providing insight into what happened as a result of their actions. To do this would be like investing money in the stock market and not caring about what return you get on your investment. 2. True impact is measurable and provable. It’s easy to find organizations that claim they positively impact people living in poverty but most have no way of proving how. An organization’s ability to provide proof is, in my opinion, what sets apart the best from the rest. To measure our impact we run an intensive monitoring and evaluation system that gives us insight into the empowerment that is occurring as a result of our work. We measure 45 key performance indicators for each participant, every month. When we compare empowerment levels to what life was like before the program we are able to gauge the true impact of our programs. See the proof here. As impact increasingly becomes en vogue, my hope is that we as consumers and donors demand true impact from the organizations we support. When one looks at the track record of international development it’s clear that we haven’t always demanded impact, but I’m convinced that this is the way to ensure our generation leaves behind a different legacy. Remember, it is one thing to claim impact and another to actually have it. Let’s be people in pursuit of the latter.
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