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Takeaways from the IMP session “Incorporating the stakeholder’s voice into impact measurement and management practice”

Takeaways from the IMP session “Incorporating the stakeholder’s voice into impact measurement and management practice”

This past week, the Impact Management Project (IMP) hosted an information session titled, “Incorporating the stakeholder’s voice into impact measurement and management practice,” to share insights and best practices from IMP and their partners. The speakers included Olivia Prentice, IMP COO and Head of Content, Jeremy Nicholls, IMP Advisor, and NED at Social Value International Jo Fackler, IMP Engagement Lead.

The conversation was comprehensive and practical, covering the importance of listening to different voices and sharing a case study of the successful implementation of tools to incorporate the voice of stakeholders in the decision-making process. Below we’ve summarized a few takeaways we found the most interesting and compelling.

Not all stakeholders are the same:

While there are several stakeholders involved in one specific investment, it is often hardest to hear the voice of the beneficiaries for numerous reasons, including the difficulties regarding contacting beneficiaries over time, having a diverse sample, and not mapping out all of your stakeholders.

Listening isn’t enough:

Gathering information from beneficiaries is just the first step – it’s important that their feedback is incorporated into action. The way the data reflects on the decision making allows for the creation of greater impact. Beneficiary data play an essential role in identifying risks, opportunities and necessary changes to the current offerings to better serve the population investors aim to impact.

Three ways to do it:

Each investment has its own characteristics and should be analysed separately but in general there are three ways to gather data from beneficiaries.: a)objective self-reported data, b) subjected self-reported data, and c) objective non-self-reported data available. There is a case to be made for all methodologies and most likely, the best fit will be a combination of two or three different approaches. That said, according to IMP, investors should not be striving for perfect data but instead focusing on recognizing the risks and biases in the data when performing any analysis.

Gap in accountability:

We currently see a gap in accountability in impact management. The people whose lives are impacted are not necessarily customers, investors or employees and therefore can’t necessarily show up and hold people accountable to their best interests.

Stakeholder involvement should be:

      • Pragmatic and assessed on usefulness rather than perfection a mix of formal and informal data collection.
      • Fundamental to increasing impact is understanding the relative value of different impacts directly from stakeholders, helps organizations make management decisions
      • Not directly involved in governance. Giving a board seat to a representative of the beneficiaries does not guarantee that the voice of all beneficiaries will be heard. It is hard to expect that one person will be able to speak for all and this is not an effective measure to fight the gap in accountability that currently seen in impact management as all beneficiaries cannot be present at the table.
      • Designed to address the gap in accountability by making sure their feedback is converted into meaningful data insights
      • Conducted in a transparent approach, with each organization’s policy posted visibly on their websites

Involving stakeholders is recognised and mandated by many standards such as GRI Reporting Principles, GIIN Characteristics of Impact Investors, Social Value Principles, UNEP-FI Principles of Responsible Banking, and the UNDP Practice Standards for PE/Bonds, among others. IMP explores how surveying can be used to collect data for each of the five dimensions of impact in this new guide supported by Omidyar Network and in partnership with 60 Decibels, Keystone Accountability, and Social Value International.

There are still challenges for stakeholder involvement. Data rigour, for instance, varies across regions- with some having better access than others. How does an investor follow up over time to track any important outcomes that might have occurred after beneficiaries interacted with the organization, and what is “good enough impact” as we aim for systemic impact? However, one challenge that is addressable and must be overcome is the need to ensure that beneficiaries’ voices are heard throughout the impact management and assessment process.