Burning Better

5 essential takeaways from the IMM Burning Topics series 

Burning Better

The IMM Burning Topics articles asked 25 thought leaders to share their views on the most crucial questions related to impact measurement and management (IMM). These five essential takeaways represent what we learned along the way.

We’re sharing them now not just because the Burning Topics series is coming to a close, but because 2023 marks a year when mastering IMM is more crucial than ever. Our research has shown growth in the impact sector, but with more impact stakeholders comes a more pressing need to preserve integrity. The IMM insights you’ll find below aim to put impact stakeholders in the strongest, most informed position to drive real change (not impact washing) for people and planet.

1. Improved assessment improves outcomes

Robust impact data can serve as the engine of change, and IMM should be embedded in the DNA of every organisation focused on positive change for people and planet. Impact capital providers have a role in supporting their investees/grantees to set up IMM processes that do not add reporting burdens but help improve their operations, thus maximising their positive outcomes. In addition, impact capital providers should measure and manage their own added value towards the supported organisations and ecosystem. 

Key quote:

“...assessing impact works as an energy booster both for us as investor and for our investees: good outcomes motivate us to do more while areas for improvement push us to do better...”
Nicole Feliciani

2. Transparency builds trust

Increased transparency about IMM practices and performances will enhance trust among investors and unlock collaboration opportunities, as well as mobilise additional capital for impact while preserving the credibility of the whole impact ecosystem. If the industry’s transparency efforts do not take this direction, they risk becoming a compliance effort with little added value. Many EVPA members have proven their expertise on measuring and managing impact, and as such have a key opportunity to drive the development of IMM standards and best practices, leading the way toward a more transparent and thriving ecosystem.

Key quote:

“For investors who are serious about impact, now is the time to take bold steps toward transparency, raising the bar for themselves and the industry. Share more than what feels comfortable; the work of investors for impact is more than marketing metrics and case studies and should be presented as such.”
Paige Nicol

Further reading: Fostering transparency

3. Accountability and impact maximisation go hand in hand

Impact financing has inherited reporting dynamics from mainstream finance, which aim at ensuring shareholder accountability. However, leading organisations are moving towards stakeholder accountability, which implies mitigating power imbalances with investees, improving transparency to the public and ensuring that beneficiaries’ voices inform decisions. Input from a wide range of stakeholders forces investors and investees to act upon beneficiaries’ needs, ultimately maximising impact.  

Key quote: 

“If people experiencing impact had the power and investors were held accountable, organisations would have no choice but to ramp up the frequency and scale of impact-led decisions based on data.”
Jeremy Nicholls

4. Third-party validation can help safeguard impact integrity

Rising mainstream interest in impact and sustainability has significantly increased the claims of investors and companies interested in reputational gains. To maintain impact integrity, the role of independent impact assurers will become increasingly relevant. Key assurance activities include: harmonising assurance standards and methodologies; ensuring stakeholders learn throughout this process, assuring both best practices and performance; and democratising access to impact assurance services. 

Key quote:

“With impact washing at an all-time high, I sincerely hope that the time for impact assurance has arrived. (…) Rather than seeing it as a negative thing that tells you where you’re wrong, it should be encouraged as a useful learning experience that tells you how to improve.”
Ben Carpenter

Further reading: Assuring Impact

5. Keep debating – but keep the horizon in sight

When investors set up their IMM strategy, they face questions that even the most seasoned practitioners may be unable to answer. To what extent do standardised indicators allow for granular analysis of the impact achieved? Is monetisation the best way to approach impact valuation? While EVPA’s programs encourage debate, peer-learning and the consideration of big questions, these activities should not eclipse our common horizon: putting impact measurement and management at the service of decision-making. 

Key quote: 

“The purpose of impact measurement is to gain understanding of impact performance, and to use this newfound understanding to facilitate impact management: the act of decision making to improve said performance. Data not used for decisions is of little value — it’s just nice numbers.”
Tom Adams

Further reading: Assessing comparability

Next steps

The journey isn’t over. In 2023, we’re getting more practical with our IMM insights; that means new case studies, editorials and even a podcast – stay tuned! And stay up to date in your inbox with our newsletter

As always, the wisdom of the impact community fuels out insights. Got an IMM topic we missed? Let us know!