Tools and Resources for Assessing Social Impact

TRASI

Terms Defined

In this section, you will find definitions of the terminology that appears within TRASI. The table below lists the categories that McKinsey & Co. developed, and which we used to classify the approaches in the TRASI database. It also corresponds to the order of the checkbox search on the Search page. For more definitions and a closer look at McKinsey's framework, please visit their Learning for Social Impact web portal.  

Category Dimension Term
Approach Approach refers to the types of social impact assessments: tools, methods, and best practices. Tools: A tool is a concrete well-developed instrument that assesses performance based on fixed indicators.

Methods: A method is a framework for evaluation that suggests methodological guidelines and process steps.

Best Practices: A best practice provides overall guidance for developing and implementing assessment methods and tools that adhere to the highest quality standards.

Purpose The evaluation purpose describes the possible end-uses of an approach: assessment, management, and/or certification. Assessment: Assessment evaluates the characteristics, practices, results, and/or valuation of a program's activities prior to or post-funding.

Management: An approach that serves a management purpose provides information that can be used to monitor a program's progress, make midcourse corrections, and drive results.

Certification: Certification provides a rating based on certain desirable characteristics of an organization determined by an external review with a systematic approach to publicizing the organization's rating.

Organization Organization describes who is assessed: NGO/nonprofits, social enterprises, program clusters, foundations, social investors, and/or governments. NGO/nonprofit: An NGO/nonprofit is a non-endowed public charity or a non-grantmaking charity in the U.S. context.

Government: Government is defined as any local, state, or federal government in the role of a funder.

Program Cluster: A program cluster is a portfolio of a funder's programs all built around a single theory of change.

Foundation: A private foundation, as defined by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service code, typically has a single major source of funding and primarily makes grants to other charitable organizations and to individuals, rather than directly operating charitable programs.

Social Enterprise: A social enterprise is a double or triple bottom line company. Structured as either a for-profit or nonprofit, it seeks to generate both social and financial return.

Social Investor: A social investor seeks social impact as well as financial return.

Sector Sector refers to a sociological, economic, or political subdivision of society; for organizations pursuing social change work, common examples include health, education, and environment. The sectors provided are selected from the Foundation Center's National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE). General Sector Applicability: Approaches that are coded as generally applicable can be used to assess interventions in any sector.
Focus Focus: The focus of an approach determines whether the approach seeks to assess efficiency or ultimate outcomes: organizational effectiveness, social impact, or both. Organizational Effectiveness: An approach that measures organizational effectiveness examines the health, functionality, and efficiency of the project or institution. Its focus lies in the financial, human resource, and technological elements of a well-run business, rather than on social impact.

Social Impact: An approach that measures social impact assesses changes in economic, social, cultural, environmental, and/or political conditions due to specific actions and behavioral changes by individuals and families, communities and organizations, and/or society and systems.

Cultural: Cultural impacts are related to creating, disseminating, validating, and supporting arts, culture, and diversity as a dimension of everyday life in communities.

Economic: Economic impacts refer to financial impacts such as changes in income or financial stability of community members and/or level of public expenditures.

Environmental: Environmental impact is any impact related to natural resources and ecosystems, such as changes in carbon emissions related to climate change, water quality, or biodiversity.

Political: Political impact describes changes in legal and governmental policies, rules, and norms.

Social: Social impact includes changes in physical and mental health, quality of life (including education and healthcare), and attitudes or behaviors.

Impact Value Chain: The impact value chain allows for differentiation between inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and impact summarized in a visual illustration. It is also called a logic model. Outputs: Outputs are the direct and tangible products from an activity, such as the number of people trained.

Outcomes: Outcomes are the changes that occur over time following an activity, such as the number of people employed within six months of training.

Impact: Impact is the long-term sustainable change attributable to a specific activity, such as full employment in the U.S.

Geography Geography relays whether the approach is designed for programs in developed or developing countries or both. Developing Countries: Developing countries are countries that are not included in the International Monetary Fund's advanced economies list.

Developed Countries: Developed countries are countries that are included in the International Monetary Fund's advanced economies list.

User User describes who could potentially use the results of the assessment: NGO/nonprofits, social enterprises, program clusters, foundations, social investors, and/or governments. NGO/nonprofit: An NGO/nonprofit is a non-endowed public charity or a non-grantmaking charity in the U.S. context.

Government: Government is defined as any local, state, or federal government in the role of a funder.

Program Cluster: A program cluster is a portfolio of a funder's programs all built around a single theory of change.

Foundation: A private foundation, as defined by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service code, typically has a single major source of funding and primarily makes grants to other charitable organizations and to individuals, rather than directly operating charitable programs.

Social Enterprise: A social enterprise is a double or triple bottom line company. Structured as either a for-profit or nonprofit, it seeks to generate both social and financial return.

Social Investor: A social investor seeks social impact as well as financial return.

Intervention An intervention is an effort taken to influence or alter a situation in order to achieve a desired result. It is a mode of working to affect social change. McKinsey has defined the range of interventions in the social sector to be knowledge development, service/product development and delivery, capacity enhancement and skills development, behavior change programs, enabling systems and infrastructure development, and policy development and implementation. Knowledge development: Knowledge development is the discovery, development, interpretation, and dissemination of knowledge for the purpose of solving existing or expected problems (e.g., basic science research, traditional wisdom).

Service/product development and delivery: Service/product development and delivery are the provision of goods and services to fulfill unmet needs of constituents (e.g., soup kitchens, performing arts).

Capacity enhancement and skills development: Capacity enhancement and skills development help individuals or organizations improve their capabilities or change their practices (e.g., job training programs).

Behavior change: Behavior change involves encouraging individuals to change their behaviors for positive social benefits (e.g., anti-drug campaigns, sustainable farming initiatives).

Enabling systems and infrastructure: Enabling systems and infrastructure involves the building and entrenchment of systems and infrastructure that facilitate social change (e.g., convening, forming social networks and communities of practice, defining common standards).

Policy development and implementation: Policy development and implementation promote or resist change in government, multilateral, or corporate policy (e.g., public will campaigns, behavior change campaigns, lobbying, litigation).

Stage Stage of the solution describes the phase of planning or implementation that an intervention has reached in addressing a social problem. Frame the Problem: An assessment best suited for the "frame the problem" stage should be used by someone in the early stages of defining and fully understanding the social problem one hopes to solve.

Develop Approach: An assessment best suited for the "develop an approach" stage should be used by someone who is brainstorming ideas and designing a solution approach.

Demonstrate and Refine Solution: An assessment best suited for the "demonstrate and refine the solution" stage should be used by someone who is implementing an approach at a limited scale to test and refine the solution.

Scale and Sustain: An assessment best suited for the "scale and sustain" stage should be used by someone who is bringing a program to scale and embedding social impact in the status quo.

Cost The following costs may be incurred in order to implement an assessment: technology, subscription/licensing, third party consultant fees, and staff time and resources. Technology: Assessment implementation may incur technology costs (e.g., investment in infrastructure, application development, ongoing IT support).

Subscription/Licensing: Assessment implementation may require payment of fees, such as subscription or licensing fees.

Third Party Consultants: Assessment implementation may require or highly recommend use of paid third party consultants.

Staff Resources Required: Staff resources required refer to the time necessary to implement an assessment, which is classified as high, medium, or low.

Low staff resources required means that 2 out of the 3 criteria below are fulfilled:
<2 investor days/quarter
<2 management days/quarter
<2 staff days/quarter

Medium staff resources required means that 2 out of the 3 criteria below are fulfilled:
2-5 investor days/quarter
2-5 management days/quarter
2-5 staff days/quarter

High staff resources required means that 2 out of the 3 criteria below are fulfilled:
>5 investor days/quarter
>5 management days/quarter
>5 staff days/quarter

Techniques Planning techniques are the strategies prescribed by a methodology or best practice: stakeholder consultation, logic model, issue mapping, evaluability model, and/or formative evaluation. Stakeholder Consultation: A stakeholder consultation involves the deliberative effort by an evaluator to ensure that the preferences, interests, and perspectives of different stakeholders are given systematic consideration in the evaluation process.

Logic Model: A logic model allows for differentiation between inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and impact summarized in a visual illustration. It is also called an impact value chain.

Issue mapping: Issue mapping is used to define the effects that are to be evaluated and the associated indicators. It is based on the aggregation of individual points of view for the purpose of reaching consensus between partners.

Evaluability Model: An evaluability model establishes whether a program can be evaluated and the barriers to its effective evaluation (e.g., data availability).

Formative Evaluation: A formative evaluation requires the collection and analysis of data over the lifecycle of the program and timely feedback of evaluation findings to program actors to inform ongoing decision-making and action.

Data gathering methods are the methods involved in obtaining data: interviews, focus groups, direct observations, participant surveys, implementation/administrative data collection, and/or external data collection. Interviews: Interviews are conversations where questions are asked by one party to obtain information from another party.

Focus Groups: Focus groups are structured discussions that involve the progressive sharing and refinement of participants' views and ideas. A group facilitator supplies topics or questions for discussion.

Direct Observations: Direct observations are descriptive records developed by an outside observer or participant observer.

Participant Surveys: Participant surveys are systemic methods of collecting information from individuals by recording responses to a series of questions with a structured format for responses.

Program Data Collection: Program data collection involves the ongoing collection of metrics related to a program's implementation (e.g., operational outputs, near-term outcomes tracking).

External Data Collection: External data collection requires the identification and acquisition of data that already exists (e.g., from current databases, other research efforts).

Data evaluation methods describe the techniques used to inform judgments and conclusions: benchmarking, cost analysis, descriptive statistics, expert review, mapping methods, multidimensional indices, regression analysis, and/or strategic assessment. Benchmarking: Benchmarking provides a comparison to a point of reference (e.g., best practice, external groups).

Cost Analysis: Cost analysis frames the results of an initiative in light of how much it costs to achieve those results (e.g., cost benefit analysis, cost effectiveness analysis).

Descriptive Statistics: Descriptive statistics are used to quantitatively describe or summarize a data set (e.g., mean, standard deviation, frequency).

Expert Review: An expert review involves evaluation by a set of experts who can bring their experience and provide extra context in interpreting the data (e.g., panels, Delphi surveys).

Mapping Methods: Mapping methods are spatial analysis methods (e.g., network mapping, geo-demographic mapping) that provide a visual depiction of relationships among actors, or between actors, their environments, and behaviors.

Multidimensional Indices: A multidimensional index assigns a single score calculated from a set of indicators as a composite measure of a situation (e.g., poverty index could include literacy, health, sanitation, and other indicators).

Regression Analysis: Regression analysis is a statistical method used to model the relationship between dependent and independent variables and to demonstrate correlation between variables.

Strategic Assessment: A strategic assessment involves the use of qualitative, logical analysis to test hypotheses, weigh tradeoffs, and frame decisions (e.g., SWOT analysis).

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