Impact Management | October 6, 2021

Optimizing for Impact: Where are you on your impact management journey?

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.

WATCH THE VIDEO: 4 Steps of Impact Management.

Impact management is not an on/off switch. It’s a process.

I’m sharing this video from the course because it puts the learner directly into a concrete role. Perhaps you’re an entrepreneur or manager inside a company trying to impact one of the Sustainable Development Goals. Or an investor choosing companies to invest in based on their potential for impact. 

The video invites you to consider where you are in your own journey to better impact management and shows you the four universal steps in impact measurement management, or IMM. We developed the steps to align carefully with the UNDP’s SDG Impact Standards, the Operating Principles for Impact Management and other key standards (see chart, below)

Cycle of activities

Working through these four steps – set strategy, integrate, optimize, and reinforce – can help investors identify where their practices are strongest and weakest and where it makes sense to spend the most time making tangible improvements.

Remember that the activities under each of the four steps are intrinsically related – your strategy defines what impact management activities to integrate into operations in order to gather useful information to measure and optimize impact and report to stakeholders. 

Finally, recognize that these steps actually represent a cycle of activities that an organization is continually moving through; we know there will be opportunities to improve and add best practices on an ongoing basis. 

Common mistakes

It’s very common for investors to spend a lot of time in one step and fail to appreciate the connections between the work required within the others. For example, they might spend a lot of time collecting and cleaning data from investees, but skip the step of making sure the metrics they are collecting align with their impact strategy, or fail to utilize diligence criteria to assess if investees are actually equipped to provide the metrics that support that impact strategy. 

This is an iterative process, but having the four steps in mind helps frame the detailed how-tos that follow this introductory instructional video. You can go deeper in any step at any time, but it’s good to know how decisions you make up front (about strategy and integration into your operations) will directly affect how you optimize and reinforce impact later.

Ready to dig into the full training?