Having the guts to strive for maximum impact

Impact management learnings after seven years

As a not-for-profit organization, achievement of our social goals is our bottom line. The general view is that this is hard to measure, and it is. It is much harder to monitor integration of unaccompanied refugee minors, or self-esteem among sexually assaulted girls, or independence among children with autism, than to keep track of revenues.

However, for us, the high degree of difficulty is not an excuse to not try. We are likely to never get a perfectly complete picture of our impact results, but we do strive to get a good enough understanding to be able to make data-driven decisions about continuous improvement of our interventions, to evaluate how efficiently we use our resources, and to hold ourselves accountable to our mission.

We are far from done in our efforts, but strong progress has been made during the past seven years and we can look back at an exciting journey of learning and development.

Why the ‘why’ is important

In our early days, when we had fewer staff and fewer resources, impact measurement was not one team member’s sole focus. Rather it was one of many hats our team members had to wear. Not only was this the case for us; it is also currently the case for most of the social ventures we support. It is always important to be clear on why we track impact, but in the early growth stages - when resources are so scarce - we have learned it particularly vital.

The ‘why’ directs both what and how rigorously we measure. For example, if at a certain point in time, the primary reason for measuring your impact is to satisfy funder interests, then whatever the funder is interested in, is what should be identified and then measured. In spite of the seemingly obvious logic to this inference, we have seen over and over how data is collected and then found not to be useful. Our experience is that, in any process of impact measurement, the first step should always be to reflect on, and document, the why, before taking action. Clearly stating the why, not only maximises the chances of collecting the most useful data, but also - if you are part of a team - increases the likelihood of surfacing any non-alignment at a time when it can still be easily resolved.


A high jump is more meaningful when there is a bar to jump over

Looking back over the years, we can see how the steering mechanisms of our program operations have evolved. In the beginning, although our Incubator support centered around the same core areas that we work with today, we had not yet clearly specified what success looked like within each area. Without clarity around the targeted outcomes, we could not follow up on whether our goals were being achieved. Rather, our focus was on tracking outputs (mostly the number of children supported) and on tracking our social entrepreneurs’ satisfaction with our support. Lots of children were being supported and our social entrepreneurs were very satisfied with our Incubator support, but we lacked a basis for assessing if these results were good enough. It was like a high jump without the bar to jump over. We knew that we jumped and we had a good feeling, but we did not know whether we sailed over or fell short. Going into 2018, our situation is different. Within each of our support areas, we have set out which development milestones that we aim for our social ventures to achieve in the Incubator. Every four months we will be monitoring and evaluating our social ventures’ progress towards those milestones.

In essence, if the ambition is to monitor whether targeted outcomes are achieved, then it is vital to first identify what those outcomes are. From working with hundreds of social ventures, we have seen that this is easier said than done. In the few instances where an attempt has been made to document targeted outcomes, often they are in fact not outcomes but activities with a purpose. We therefore spend a lot of time at the start of the Incubator challenging our social ventures to be crystal clear with their social goals. It does take a bit of time and for some, it can be a bit of a painful process, but we know that the blood, sweat and tears invested up front pays off in the long-term.


Evaluating not only effectiveness but also cost-efficiency

During the past years our focus has been on measuring and maximizing our impact; our effectiveness. Lately we have begun also looking into our cost-efficiency i.e. comparing the impact achieved with the money spent to achieve that impact. Comparing money spent with impact achieved, is challenging since they are not of the same ‘currency’. One way to tackle this challenge is to translate the social impact into monetary value, by estimating how much society saves thanks to that the social impact is achieved. For  example, the societal cost of one Swedish child being bullied has been calculated at up to$25 000 during childhood and up to$350 000 during adulthood*; these are strong incentives for urgently prioritizing preventive and collective measures.

Ideally we would want to benchmark our cost-efficiency not only against our internal targets, but also against the cost-efficiency achieved by others who target the same outcomes as we do. We do risk finding out that our solution is not the most effective use of resources, but having the guts to challenge our program design and risk disruptive change in the strive for maximum impact, is for us the ultimate testament of what it means to be a truly impact-driven organization.


Annica Johansson
Global Impact Manager

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gained more revenues supported more children on an average more than tripling their results.


Children and youth were protected from physical and mental abuse and threats, through interventions carried out by Change Leaders in Ghana, Chad and Tanzania.

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30 percent of Norwegian students do not complete secondary education after five years, which heavily reduces their changes of entering the labor market and weakens their belief in their own future. This problem is especially pressing among boys with a multicultural background. Norwegian Change Leaders Yvan Bayisabe and Fredrik Mosis run VIBRO, which enables immigrant youth to come in contact with role models that help them see their potential and motivate them to finish school.

During 2015, VIBRO explored ways to become less dependent on grants, and identified an interesting opportunity: to partner with companies keen in improving their workplace diversity, who are in search for inters, and help them find the perfect candidate. VIBRO charges for the search and screening, and is awarded an additional fee if the recommended candidate is recruited. Already four Norwegian companies have shown interest in the model.


"Having the guts to challenge our solution design and risk disruptive change in the strive for maximum impact, is for us the ultimate testament of what it means to be a truly impact-driven organization."

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My name is Mohammed Ndjaye and I am 4 year old. I'm not like other children my age. I was born with a serious illness: the SS type of sickle cell disease. This means I need to receive regular blood transfusions; otherwise my disease could be fatal. During the month of Ramadan, the number of blood donors goes down, as fasting donors are very rare. This meant I could not receive my usual blood transfusions because there was a shortage of blood. I fell seriously ill and I had to be transferred to Albert Royer Children's Hospital where I stayed for a few days.

On the International Day of Blood Donation, the National Blood Transfusion Centre and HOPE organized a large blood drive and a lot of blood was donated. Due to this I could get my transfusion and I felt a lot better, which made my mom very happy!

Before HOPE came along, my parents and I were very afraid that there would not be any blood for me at the hospital for my transfusions. Now, thanks to HOPE, I believe there will always be blood for me at the hospital when I need it. When I grow up, I want to be a hero just like them!

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