Home 9 Regions 9 Global 9 How to Engage Stakeholders in Impact Measurement and Management

How to Engage Stakeholders in Impact Measurement and Management

Stakeholder Engagement through Lean Data

Building a social purpose business takes time and money. So while it seems like a good thing to seek feedback from customers or beneficiaries, it can also seem like a luxury that is out of reach for most entrepreneurs. That needs to change.

Engaging stakeholders, even very low-income, remote customers, doesn’t need to be expensive and time consuming. With a “Lean Data” approach to gathering impact metrics and customer profile data, social enterprises and the entities that support them can gain direct insights on what employees and customers say matters most, generating actionable data to drive decision-making and support business growth.

Lean Data is focused on the human behind every data point, and centers the voice of the customer in impact measurement and management for social enterprises. A remote, tech-enabled approach supports data collection and analysis that is responsive, fast and impactful. Lean Data combines the benefits of quantitative and qualitative research through remote (mostly phone) surveys, leveraging mobile technology and a global researcher network to communicate directly with customers and beneficiaries in local languages.

Children in India

In the words of Sasha Dichter, co-developer of the Lean Data approach: “When we began to build Lean Data, we knew first-hand the challenges social enterprises and investors face in gathering meaningful data to guide investment decisions and improve performance…. Our goal is to reset the impact management conversation. Impact boils down to a person’s lived experience, but no one is talking to customers, suppliers and employees in a systematic, comparable way.”

Lean Data combines the benefits of quantitative and qualitative research.

Here’s how it works

Starting from a set of core insights questions, which align directly to the Impact Management Project’s Five Dimensions of Impact, and an understanding of what a social enterprise or funder/investor most wants to learn, a survey is designed to gather data on people’s lived experiences. Expertise in asking good questions, training researchers, improving response rates, building rapport, coding qualitative data, and conducting segmented analysis all produce rich insights from a representative sample of end stakeholders.

With a high level of confidence, these remote surveys deliver data on why and how much customers value a company’s services and products, their views on how their lives have improved, and demographics about consumers, particularly income and gender. Going beyond number of people served, Lean Data enables an accurate picture of who is benefitting and who is left out. How else can impact be achieved if a full range of customers are not engaged in providing feedback about what is working, for whom, and in what context?

By asking questions in a standardized and comparable way, the aggregated results across companies and sectors create performance benchmarks to put results in context. This targeted and repeatable approach to gathering customer insights and social impact data enables companies and funders to understand their impact relative to peers and to make informed decisions to manage and improve their impact.

The Lean Data approach makes it easy to incorporate stakeholder engagement right into standard impact measurement and management practice. In addition to aligning directly to the IMP Five Dimensions, surveys can integrate widely accepted metrics and processes, such as the IRIS+ system or SDG target metrics into the survey design.

This targeted and repeatable approach to gathering customer insights and social impact data enables companies and funders to understand their impact relative to peers and to make informed decisions to manage and improve their impact.

The benefit

Investors and donors develop confidence in the social enterprises and are assured that they are not “impact washing.” Rather, by listening to customers, enterprises ensure that their services and products are having real impact on people’s lives. Attracting additional investors or making the case to donor agencies also becomes easier because the impact measurement and management process is based on actual feedback from stakeholders and this is often viewed positively in the due diligence process.

All handsPerhaps more importantly, companies, particularly enterprises in emerging markets, have made concrete changes to operations, marketing and new business development strategies based on what they hear from their customers. By using a Lean Data approach to stakeholder engagement, companies will know that the changes that enterprises make are based on a deep understanding of their customer base and the people who they still hope to serve as their businesses grow — resulting in both increased revenues and scaling impact.

Examples

60 Decibels, an end-to-end measurement company that led the development of the Lean Data approach, produced a comprehensive report of interviews with nearly 35,000 customers served by 49 off-grid energy companies. These companies operate in 17 countries throughout the global south with a concentration of companies in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This report offers these companies the opportunity to compare their data to one another as well through indexing and comparative data analysis of subsectors and regions as well as customer characteristics such as gender and income.

Lean Data is one of numerous approaches to ensuring that stakeholders are intentionally engaged in impact measurement and management.

Omidyar Network has used Lean Data to gather comparable impact metrics across their full portfolio. In 2020, Omidyar India published a report on their learnings from Lean Data studies with 200+ customers from each of 16 portfolio organizations. These results provided actionable data for their portfolio companies, as well as for their investment team.

Learn More

Lean Data is one of numerous approaches to ensuring that stakeholders are intentionally engaged in impact measurement and management. A sample of these approaches are being shared through a Peer Learning Partnership that is part of a Global Action Initiative originating in 2020 led by The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and funded by the European Union. Learn more about this effort and other approaches to stakeholder engagement in impact measurement and management on our website.

Courtney Bolinson is an experienced evaluator, facilitator, and systems thinker. She has worked with the private sector, non-profits, universities, and governments to address complex challenges through equitable and systemic evaluation approaches. She holds two master’s degrees, in Agricultural and Applied Economics and Agroecology, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an ... Read more
Jane Reisman bridges the worlds of impact measurement and management and the evaluation profession. As founder of an evaluation firm ORS Impact, Jane engaged in new frontiers to scale impact. Her current work as a social impact advisor focuses on field-building efforts that strengthen impact measurement and management practices.
Co-founder of pfc Social Impact Advisors, I seek to scale the social and environmental impact of private, public, and non-profit investors through accountable impact management and active stakeholder engagement. Focused on policy, and an experienced advocate, evaluator, and social impact advisor, my consultancy spans dozens of philanthropic and private sector ... Read more
Lindsay Smalling is head of US sales for 60 Decibels. She previously held roles as CEO of SOCAP, a world-renowned convener in impact investing, and as strategic initiatives officer for ImpactAssets.
Monthly Premium H

Comments

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Premium Monthly

Deep Dives

Faith-based Impact Investing

MOST RECENT

Editor's Picks

Webinars

News & Events


More News & Events

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates about new Magazine content and upcoming webinars, deep dives, and events.

Access all of Impact Entrepreneur.

Become a Premium Member to access the full library of webinars and deep dives, exclusive membership portal, member directory, message board, and curated live chats.

ie frog
Welcome to Impact Entrepreneur MagazinePlease join us!

While all magazine articles are free to view, you need to choose a membership option to continue using the site. Basic Membership is free and gives unlimited access to articles. Premium Membership brings a host of rich offerings and collaborative opportunities.

Or LOGIN HERE if you are already a member.

Click