The Double Bottom Line is a Farce: Social Performance Management in Pro-Poor Organizations

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Facilitated by Steve Wright, Grameen Foundation

Session Description

Steve has recently stepped into the role of Director of the Social Performance Management Center at the Grameen Foundation. In this session he'll share his perspective on measuring social impact and calibrating social performance.

Session Notes

Facilitated by: Steve

Notes by: Todd

Other Participants: Mari, Alex, Dean, Stephen, Matthew, Robyn, Ben, James, Gina, Matthew, Hilary, Anca, Omar

  • Here is the Slide Deck that we referred to in our conversation today.


There's an important distinction between social outputs & social outcomes.

we need to develop a rigorous, audit-able system proving that our work has an impact on the world

and it's important that we can do this in a standardized way where we can compare the operational efficacy of our work.

Be rigorous about what matters.

"Full" Session Notes

we need to develop a rigorous, audit-able system proving that our work has an impact on the world

social outcomes vs. outputs! an outcome is something that you can count. - Impact reporting & Investment Standards. They have defined outputs in a standardized way. This creates comparability, which is crucial.

Benchmarking & comparisons are super important.

Meta-data is just as important as the data itself. There is no social market without comparability.

What if a platform existed that could accelerate and amplify pro-poor social business?

There is a macro-economic benefit to eliminating poverty. We claim that eradicating poverty has philanthropic value.

MMFI - Micro-Finance Institution (provide credit/financial-services to people who are unbanked)

"The Poverty Platform Improves my Business"

We HAVE to make it by virtue of measuring my impact, we have to be better at reaching that impact. Improve operational efficacy!

We've taken on a mantra of "sustainability" / "social enterprise" -- this has actually made our lives more difficult. What we need to do, is: how do we get better at providing the desired outcome.

How does the data we put out in the world become fungible? How can it be consumed & used?

Double-bottom line is a farce -- THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE BOTTOM LINE: Either you are making money or you are making a better world, but only one of them is main.

You need to be effective at both your financial bottom-line and your social bottom-line, but there can't be a double-bottom line.

Evaluation is often a top-down process coming from the foundations -- it's often broken.

If you really think that poverty, hunger, etc. can be solved, you have to understand that you can't do it alone, you NEED to work together...we need to build a market for this!

Marketing should equal Truth -- be honest with what you're doing

Should organizations be trying to put themselves out of business? After eradicating poverty, shouldn't the NPO be done with their work?

True change is probably generational, so you need to design organizations that are going to last 100 years.

It's valuable to show that you are making progress towards your end goal. It's not just an on/off question of "Is there poverty or not?"

What is the currency with which a social market should exist? If it's not money, what is it? What is the fuel to the fire that enables organizations to make change?

Is the goal of donor's misaligned with the organizations that best provide social change? Are the dollars going to the "wrong" projects?

Nexii - transactional investment, FCC regulated stock market for organizations that are described by their social impact! -- very interesting work. interested in "negative 100% investments" (i.e. grants) -- you never get your money back, but you do get social change back.

"I believe the physics of the market...but it's easily manipulable."

Reputation is important -- why do people participate in your organization?

It's difficult to measure impact sometimes.

"The Ladder of Engagement" -- weighted point system based on level of engagement from your constituents. The ideal = engagment (ideally at deep levels) of your constituents. There are numbers/values

more info can be found at Care2 or the blog. - sms shortcodes that create heatmaps around the world to display crime, etc. - too much noise, building new tool "Swift." Swift - accountability/checking of this data?

You should set up your data (collect it) in such a way that you can get a measure of at least 60% of your organizational efficacy at the push of a button. the rest is narrative.

Keystone Reporting - Who are your stakeholders and what do they value in you?

In this "ideal market" -- should we be letting the less effective organizations die just because they're less effective? We need to measure both the node and the progress towards their goal. but there are multiple end goals, so there is a value in all organizations.

It should be a question of making everyone MORE EFFECTIVE. Get "good" orgs to be "great" orgs

Issues w/ micro-finance -- people are taking too many loans from different places, and the loan managers (who are pushed to hit their financial numbers) put undue pressure on the loanee who hasn't payed the loan back yet.

"There is a gravity around cash, but we don't have a gravity around social impact we can't put the two together. They aren't exchangeable yet."

Check out "Theory of Change" for a more in-depth exploration of this topic. Good resources from the Kellogg Foundation.

Also recommended as interesting reading: "The revolution will not be funded" -- criticisms of NPOs

Be rigorous about what matters.