When the ultimate goal of a program or organization is environmental or social change, the crucial final step of implementation is measuring impact. For every case, this will be done in different ways. For certain organizations with clear, quantifiable goals, this comes down to assessing the highest-priority metrics for success. For other organizations, this will less-optimally consist of gathering qualitative feedback. No matter the method, measuring impact honestly allows for potential realignment. Further publishing these results allows for an important measure of transparency for stakeholders.
Part of Solutions
Because this concept is so broad in nature, let's focus one case of impact measurement carried out by the Rainforest Alliance:
The RA for starters has a team devoted to this important task-- the Evaluation and Research team.
From the organizational goal of "conserving biodiversity and ensuring sustainable livelihoods" the E&R team has developed three tiers of key metrics that illustrate progress towards this goal.
- First layer includes includes basic data collected across the board. Examples: "number of people employed by a business, harvest volumes, geographic location and the number of hectares set aside for conservation."
- A second layer of sub-sampled data is collected, more precise in nature, that is intended for deeper analysis. Examples include "water-quality readings or household-level data on income that directly measure progress in achieving our sustainability objectives"
- The third and final layer consists of "Focused Research" which are "research initiatives that are explicitly designed to test a specific hypothesis." These are generally carried out by a third party such as a university of research group to ensure accuracy.
An visual representation of this impact research "Pyramid" can be seen in the images below.
More information on how the Rainforest Alliance measures impact can be found on a link included in the resource section below.