Impact: What is it?

A new wave of excitement around the globe, has sparked renewed interest in the potential of social enterprises to solve some of the biggest challenges the world is facing right now. Global discussions around agriculture, energy, water, education, and health are taking a serious look at truly solving the problem, and solving it so the solutions reach billions of people. Efforts such as the global Co-Impact (https://www.co-impact.io/) are building large collaborative systems for change. In Pakistan, the Impact Network Pakistan is doing similar work at a country level. Discussions around social entrepreneurship, social innovation and impact in Pakistan, have spurred multiple new collaborations, increasing interest in impact investments and an increasing number of new social entrepreneurs.  In the midst of all the excitement, we ask ourselves and the wider community some important questions for reflection, debate, and consensus. The first revolves around vocabulary – With the popularity of the terms social enterprise, social innovation and impact, we must ask ourselves do we all mean the same thing when we use these terms? Without a common language and consensus on definitions of the terms, building linkages between the different stakeholders becomes very difficult. A starting place maybe the commonly accepted global understanding of these terms:

  1. SOCIAL INNOVATION

“Social innovation is the process of developing and deploying effective solutions to challenging and often systemic social and environmental issues in support of social progress. Social innovation is not the prerogative or privilege of any organizational form or legal structure. Solutions often require the active collaboration of constituents across government, business, and the nonprofit world A social innovator may be an employee in a company, part of a government organisation, or a participant in a hack-a-thon. Further, social innovators tend to use the structure of open innovation. Social Innovations do not necessarily have a business model or financial sustainability”

  1. SOCIAL ENTERPRISE

Social entrepreneurs are driven by two factors – the purpose and the business. In an interesting debate, the issue of intentionality was very important. A social enterprise MUST have the purpose as part of its mission and strategy. (i.e a businesses creating social impact, are not considered a social enterprise if the purpose was not clearly stated at the onset of the business). Both Purpose and Profits must be measured and reported regularly

  1. IMPACT 

Social impact is the effect an organization’s actions have on the well being of the community. Social Impact can be created by any organization, but it’s really hard to measure and quantify.There is often confusion between Monitoring, Evaluation and Impact. Looking at the present practices, many impact measurement efforts on part of various stakeholders are in reality monitoring frameworks, tracking easy-to-measure  indicators.

Once there are common definitions in place, it becomes easier to ask ourselves,  what are we all really doing? We know we want to create impact and change, but are we really social entrepreneurs? maybe we are social innovators? do we have a real understanding of Impact? When we say ‘impact’  – impact on what? impact on whom?  Every organization and individual within the network is committed to  and has created tangible Impact. Much of that impact, has been driven by passion, and intuition. Is that enough? Can we measure it? How do we know we are measuring the right things? Will the achievement of the KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) you have set for your organization, truly lead to measurable Impact?  If we are going to solve daunting, complex, social problems, we must strategize, focus, collaborate, and invest in Impact the way we do for Profit. Success, in any good business is the bottom line, let’s make sure that bottom line includes real impact.

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By Shahida Saleem & Shehab Farrukh Niazi

1 Comment

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