HKI-SIA was invited to speak at the Beijing Forum, an annual international event at Peking University. The special session, titled Social Investment and Impact Measurement, features entrepreneurs, practitioners and academics from China, U.K., U.S. and Korea. Phoebe Leung, Advisor of HKI-SIA, used case studies to point out a couple of key insights on impact measurement:
– There is no “best” tool available and each measurement tool has its strengths and weaknesses. However, there can be the “most appropriate” tool depending on a social enterprise’s theory of change, audience of the impact measurement results (e.g. for internal learning vs. external reporting) and availability of resources.
– Impact measurement is for learning and improvement, not a one-off exercise. For example, an assessment may help to refine a theory of change (i.e. verifying whether a certain activity indeed leads to desired outcomes) and better allocate resources to activities that generate the highest social impact. Therefore, it is helpful to think of the systems and processes needed to manage impact over time.
Speakers at the session also shared insights regarding the state of impact measurement in their countries. Those discussions show that the social enterprise movement and the evolution of social impact measurement can be highly contextualized. For example, in the U.K., there is a unique ecosystem involving funders (e.g. Big Society Capital) and professional intermediaries such as fund managers and consultancies. In the U.S., capacity building intermediaries such as Social Venture Partners and B Lab largely grew outside of governmental support. In Korea, the social enterprise movement started with a social enterprise law and government subsidies. Therefore, in China and Hong Kong, the drivers for social impact measurement are bound to be adapted to local conditions as well.