At the Harvard Social Enterprise Conference this weekend, EmprendeSocial had the opportunity to interview Bill Drayton, CEO and Founder of Ashoka, on the importance of measuring impact of social entrepreneurial initiatives.
Expecting an assurance that measuring impact is vital for all social initiatives, we were surprised to hear quite the opposite. In his view, the protocols and indicators used to measure the “impact” of a project took precious and limited resources away from the focus of executing a well done project or program.
“Not only do they divert time and resources, but they do not capture the true impact these initiatives are having on a community,” continued explaining Bill.
His critique was directed at the type of indicators that perhaps are mostly quantitative and digit-focused, such as the number of books acquired for a community, or the increase in school attendance. “These are indicators that ignore the real impact that can be made,” added Bill.
More recently, social initiatives, especially those that receive support from entities with internal agendas, are put in a tight spot in terms of sustainability. Often, they must direct the limited resources they have toward attaining the numbers and indicators to assure funders that resources are being used appropriately.
Bill Drayton questions the term “appropriately” in this context.
To illustrate why, imagine a community participating in an initiative to raise awareness on the importance of hygiene and health. The initiative, lead by a young woman from the community, has the objective of changing the hygiene habits of the homes of the 400 community households in two years. Yet at the end of this timeframe, about half of the community has not been convinced and has refused to be involved.
Many would say this initiative has an intrinsic value rooted in the efforts and leadership of the social entrepreneur that began it. Serving as a role model for the youth of the community, and fighting an uphill battle to gain the attention and respect of the elders, she creates an added value that is difficult to capture with quantitative indicators.
I reflected at this perspective on the true value of social entrepreneurship that Mr. Drayton underscored. I asked how could we capture and create a sustainable social entrepreneurship culture around this true value, to which he answered gingerly– «isn’t that your job?»
In a matter of seconds, Bill Drayton had put into perspective the work that lies ahead of EmprendeSocial – developing a culture of social entrepreneurship with sustainability is based on this intrinsic impact.