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Cracking the Code on Social Impact

by Jason Saul – Feb 06 2014

 

Over the past few decades, practitioners, evaluators, and academics have struggled to organize, measure, and understand social change. We have made a number of important advances, including more rigorous control studies, digitization of 990 data, outcomes tracking software, and improved reporting. One important challenge evaluators have faced in the social sector is standardization: How can we learn from past efforts if we cannot systematically compare one socially focused program to another? Researchers have tried to solve the “apples to oranges” problem in a number of ways. In the 1980s, the Urban Institute’s National Center on Charitable Statistics (NCCS) created a common code for classifying nonprofit organizations by entity type, and later created another system to classify program services and beneficiaries. Others have tried to standardize performance metrics using “shared measurement systems” such as IRIS and the Cultural Data Project. Still, these efforts fall short of codifying the true results of an organization’s programmatic efforts: outcomes.

 

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