The Importance of Impact


Building a development entrepreneurship...

That’s what I wake up every morning to do. It is what gets me excited about each day. It is what has me sending poor Wayne seven emails at a time, each one with a new idea or a new find, most both beginning and ending with a “sorry about all the emails but...”

And yet, it is also such a resonant activity; every action we take will be echoed by the participants in our DELab and Canopy. There are complex tasks like building a budget, filing taxes, and writing a Strategic Plan. There are also the things that I find fun -- perhaps a little too much because I tend to lose hours in them -- things like website building, social media, and research.

Today, I want to focus on another big task: funding. That shadowy creature that we all hate until the big check comes in and the celebration (read: real work) begins. There are dozens of opportunities out there for organizations seeking investors or donors. Many of them are focused on output and outcome predictions, rather than the bigger picture, impact.

And rightfully so!

Impact is a tricky thing to measure. How do you effectively measure long-term social change while keeping to your budget? And once you have, can you really attribute any variation to a single cause, like your programming?

Output is easy -- how many bed nets did you provide? How many farmers received training in a particular new technology? Outcome takes that one step further and asks how many children went malaria free that year? How many farmers saw increased crop size and quality? Those are great indicators, but they don’t always lead to increased local capacity. And isn’t the point of development to create real, sustainable change that persists across generations?

We think so, and we know we’re not alone. But how do you demonstrate that to potential donors with measurements that are predictable amidst so much uncertainty? Donors want to know that their money will be put to good use, but there really is no guarantee.

I’m happy to see a shift in thinking in the development world that is heading in this direction. Rather than looking at how many handouts are provided (e.g. bed nets, rations, and shoes), many donors are looking toward the future. They are not only asking, what are you providing? But also, what is your exit strategy? How will the people you are working with eventually be able to sustain this program without you? Will they even still need it?

This is the next step in development -- these critical questions that weren’t asked for so long. Perhaps because the immediacy of feeding a child is so compelling. What more do you need to convince you that your dollar is worth it?

But once we move beyond skills in budgeting, tax forms, and graphic design, what FTI is looking for in an entrepreneur, really searching for, is impact.

We want to work with those that have the foresight and the plan to create ethical, sustainable change, independent of foreign aid. We want to see income generated locally through socially-minded technologies that are self-sustaining.

Are you ready to join us?

Until Next Time,