Impact Management | October 14, 2021

Optimizing for Impact: What are the five dimensions of impact?

Cathy Clark
Guest Author

Cathy Clark

Optimizing for Impact. Want to learn more about Optimizing Impact for the Sustainable Development Goals? Over the next few weeks, ImpactAlpha will offer a sampling of Cathy Clark’s favorite videos from the Coursera course, “Impact Measurement and Management for the SDGs,” developed by CASE at Duke and the U.N. Development Program – with commentary from Cathy.

WHY I LIKE IT: Many investors told us they were already familiar with the “five dimensions” from the Impact Management Project. But when we asked them to name the five… let’s just say the answers varied. Our goal with this video was to make these key dimensions for defining impact visual and memorable, though an eight-minute video with distinctive colors and animations. We tested the storyboard concepts with a global advisory board for the course and they helped us make the video more culturally relevant for global audiences. Honestly, we had a lot of fun with this one and I think our animator, Lucy Pless, hit it out of the park!

HOW TO USE IT: Watch the video and use the dimensions as a five-part checklist. How is your organization defining and assessing impact along each of the five dimensions? Do you know the who/what combinations for key SDGs you want to target? Later in the Coursera training we dig deeper into the 15 data categories underneath the five dimensions, and provide a downloadable checklist tool you can use within your organization and with investees to start a conversation about the kinds of data you are collecting and why.

COMMON MISTAKES: The most common mistake with the dimensions of impact is thinking that all you need is a WHAT metric and a HOW MUCH metric to judge performance. Frankly, most business metrics only gauge HOW MUCH without the context of the other dimensions around them. But impact is multi-dimensional. Just knowing, for example, that six women gave birth in your clinic last month is usually not enough to help you decide what programs to expand, limit, or change to increase your impact on the SDG around child mortality. The dimensions guide you to add context to help make better decisions. 

Ready to dig into the full training? 

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