Blog: Measurement in Motion

Author: Dr. Tauni Lanier, Executive Director, IMPACT 2030

Anyone who has ever had the luxury of constructing a model to measure something, whether it be the weather or something even more complex, knows that it can be devilishly difficult. Garnering robust outputs is a balance between quality of data and establishing appropriate assumptions and clarity.

Social indicators are notoriously difficult, because almost anything can be explained by just tweaking the assumptions.

Within that tempest, we are pressing on to establish guidelines, standards or proxies to measure the impact of human capital investment via corporate volunteering on the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their affiliated indicators, internationally known as the Global Goals.

Yet, given the difficulty in determining models for measuring social indicators, we have decided to take the plunge – not only to forge into the labyrinth of social indicator measuring, but also boldly attempt to measure “impact” and measure that impact over “time.” I can hear you from here: “It cannot be done,” or “Many have tried,” or “Why not look at return on investment models to give you some structure?” The simple answer to all these recommendations is, yes, it can, yes, they have and yes, we will.

Maybe it is the atmosphere, or perhaps it is the notable history of looking to robustly measure complex social indicators that tells us it is the right time for a coalition such as ours. Our goal at IMPACT 2030 is to span the chasm between private companies, the U.N. and civil society. With the goal of leveraging that history and wealth of innovation and knowledge to construct a model measuring the impact of human capital investment on the SDGs. By the collaborative development approach, the measurement model will become a standard or guideline with wide buy-in, establishing a measurement language that is understood by company and stakeholder alike.

Our path is clear: to bring together those who would like to have established measurement guidelines, those who have their own way of measuring and those who raise measurement to a whole new strata, in order to form a comprehensive, consistent and repeatable way of measuring the tangible and intangible impact of human capital investment via corporate volunteering on the SDGs.

But, you may be asking: “What do you mean by ‘impact’?” Alas, that is both an easy and tricky question. As you may recall, we started our work with the definition of the activities we are measuring. During the IMPACT 2030 inaugural summit in September 2016, a group of highly engaged and enthusiastic Partners and Stakeholders were seconded in a room and came up with a definition of “Corporate Employee Volunteer Program” after a full day of deliberations. That definition is:

A corporate employee volunteer program is a company program — one the company encourages and supports — involving employees of any type, whether or not they continue to receive compensation from the company, who freely offer to volunteer for a cause related to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. This includes: employees volunteering on company time, employees volunteering on their own time without pay, pro bono services, volunteer programs organized by the company or employees; but excludes; employees performing a normal company function for the company (e.g., environment, health and safety; community relations; business development; foundation management), employees hired by the company specifically to do some charitable work, corporate philanthropy or other involvement without employee volunteers.

Extended to, Company programs — those the company encourages and supports — involving employees of any type who freely offer to provide services for a social, environmental or community development cause, including employees volunteering on company time, employees volunteering on their own time without pay, and pro bono services.

Indeed, the group went so far as to dip their collective toes into the murky realm of trying to define ‘IMPACT.’

Impact (of human capital investment) is the change effected by the volunteer or corporate employee volunteer program on one or more U.N.-approved SDGs or SDG indicators versus the status that would have resulted without such effort.

Easy, right?

Only time will tell. We aspire to continue seeking a collective model for measuring human capital investment on the SDGs based on our solid start with an agreed definition, one that is scalable and adaptable. As data is gathered and case studies researched, we boldly march down the path carved out by the IMPACT 2030 structure to add our impact and work toward achieving the SDGs.

So, what’s in the hopper?

Both teams within the Measurement Team, namely the Frameworks Team and Alignment Team, have been working hard to develop their mandates and organize their work to further connecting corporate human capital investment programs to the SDGs.

The Alignment Team has reviewed various options matching companies’ work to the SDGs and developed key questions and insights needed from the IMPACT 2030 Partners to ensure an inclusive and material alignment recommendation. The Frameworks Team identified a few questions as well for the coalition membership and has issued a joint survey to the broader IMPACT 2030 partnership.

The Frameworks team has also asked IMPACT 2030 Partners to supply case studies so that a wide determination of the various types of data gathering and possibilities can be established for a benchmark. This has created two subgroups for Frameworks: the Review and Testing Group, providing real life application and guidance, and the Design Group developing the actual measurement model.

Finally, but not insignificantly, with the Measurement chair at the helm, we have identified two dozen recommended social impact measurement frameworks and expert representatives, and so far have conducted 16 interviews with these groups, as well as a literature review of pertinent documents and online reports.

With great strides underway, the IMPACT 2030 measurement effort is in motion. We are grateful to our Partner and Stakeholder leaders for their time, thought, and commitment to forging this pathway and developing a critical component — measurement for human capital investment to the SDGs — for our mighty coalition.