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Changing the World and Reporting It, One Butterfly at a Time
By Melinda Lackey and Barry Kibel
June 1, 2016

How does your organization measure social impact?

Many nonprofits don’t, for reasons described as:

  • limited time and resources,
  • hard to keep track, and
  • really hard to quantify the value.

You might be surprised that many nonprofit investors do not require evidence of field-level impacts. Especially in supporting smaller community-serving initiatives, basic reports on short-term output production (numbers of lives touched) are accepted. This means that far-reaching social value remains unexplored.

Consider the Butterfly Effect. It asserts that through a complex, entangled network of causes and effects, the flapping of a butterfly wing can influence the weather half-way across the world.

Well, just imagine the transformative impact of one nonprofit service: A funded program connects Samantha, a recently homeless teenage girl, to a caring mentor who encourages her to believe in her own potential. Samantha’s school attendance and grades improve. Her achievements inspire her siblings, parents and classmates. Her mentor identifies latent artistic talents and introduces a special art class opportunity. Samantha enrolls and by the end of two semesters joins a leadership team. She mentors younger students. Soon she co-designs a way for many more students to engage in art classes.

Now consider a program with 100 mentors and a comparable number of success stories to celebrate. It is easy enough to count the numbers reached. But how much more powerful will it be to combine multiple stories like Samantha’s with layers of data that mirror this richness and far-reaching value?

Shielding organizations from the seemingly high hurdle of understanding the true social value of their work is well-intended but not ultimately helpful. Organizations want to thrive. They know transformative results when they see them—where individuals, whole communities and systems change in ways that stick. They want to be able to justify life-changing experiences. They want to improve their offerings, support replication of what works, and inspire new, much larger investments.

SEEDing Social Impact is a cloud-based app that makes it possible, affordable, and surprisingly simple for organizations to enhance performance and to quantify their transformative contributions to pressing social problems. Reports featuring both hard data and stories of life-changing results are produced at the touch of a button.

Imagine what would happen if many of the 1.5 million US-based non-profits could efficiently clarify where they are, where they want to be, and what they need to do to get there (for each impact target) and then monetize the value of outcomes realized? Isn’t it exciting to fathom organizations across the sector reporting deeper and wider results?

The first organizations are beta testing SEEDing Social Impact now. Perhaps you know someone who would like to utilize this potentially transformative technology?

Melinda Lackey is co-founder and director of SEED Impact, and Barry Kibel, Ph.D., is Director of Innovation and Research.

Related Links:

SEED Impact Website

SEED Impact on Facebook