Impact to Action

Plot your course toward achieving your vision

Having a solid vision, mission, and strategy will only take you so far. This is obvious, of course, but executing toward meaningful social impact requires real work — real creation — in order to make an observable difference in the world.

In another article, I wrote a bit about how the alignment of vision, mission, and strategy can help inform the actionable things needed to fulfill them (and vice versa!), and having a visual roadmap of how your goals translate into action, or not, can be a powerful tool.

Impact Mapping for … well … Impact

impactmapping.org (CC BY 4.0)

Impact mapping is a well-known tool for, traditionally, software product development, but its principles can easily be applied to validate the social impact of a venture’s activities and programs.

Impact mapping helps people decompose a concrete goal into a set of finite actions that represent our assumptions about how we can achieve that goal.

Impact maps can help tie strategic themes back to a social enterprise’s mission or even tie very granular tasks back to an objective that will help us move the social impact bar forward.

Scope

The key is understanding an impact map and its core components is being aware of its scope. Is the impact map intended to validate higher-level strategy against a vision and mission, or does it break down some objective into more actionable chunks? Impact maps can serve either purpose, but it’s important to know when to stop. If a map pushes beyond the “Deliverable” layer, then it may be time to start thinking about a lower-level impact map.

In our case, we’ll take a look at DACA Time’s impact through a strategic lens and break things down from there.

Goal

This is the needle we need to move. This is something that contributes directly to our vision, and it needs to be something observable so that we can validate our strategies against measurable outcomes.

This is the needle we need to move. This is something that contributes directly to our vision, and it needs to be something observable so that we can validate our strategies against measurable outcomes.

If we’ve done everything represented within our impact map, what will the world look like? What will we have achieved?

Put into general terms, our strategic goal is:

Who?

A typical impact map for software products needs to include an “Actor”. Who can effect the change that will result in or hinder our achieving our goal? For our strategic impact map, however, the “Actor” really represents ourselves and what we’re going to do to make our goal a reality.

For this particular impact map, we’ll leave “DACA Time” off of the map itself, but a lower-level impact map describing key performance indicators of our product would likely include actors such as “DACA applicants”, “donors”, and “immigration attorneys” as who can contribute something to our objective.

How?

How can we, as DACA Time, help more Dreamers receive DACA benefits? We know that there are complexity and financial barriers to completing and filing the DACA application, and we’re striving to lower those barriers.

Specifically, DACA Time will provide three core mechanisms for making the DACA process more accessible for eligible individuals:

What?

Now, what specifically are we going to deliver — to create — so that we can lower those barriers? These are the actionable things — the things within our sphere of control — that we can do to effect the larger change that we may not be able to control directly.

There are a lot of things we could do, but this is where the strategy we’ve defined earlier can be our guide. That strategy is:

To provide access to a low cost, simple, and secure DACA application platform and a conduit to reasonably-priced legal services.

Note that our strategy doesn’t (at the moment) include petitioning government officials to change the USCIS application process or lobbying for overall reform of DACA. Those things would certainly be valuable in terms of achieving our goal, but our strategy helps us remain focused on the specific problem we’ve identified to solve and addressing specific pains of our customers.

Our strategy helps constrain a lot of big, valuable ideas to more manageable deliverables:

The End?

Not by a long shot.

This merely represents a simplified, high-level roadmap of what we think we can do to contribute to how we think we can achieve our goal. Parts of the map represent pretty well-defined routes (collecting donations will almost certainly help us subsidize the USCIS application fee, for instance), but we still need to validate that everything we do has the desired impact (what if we can’t find a good way to disburse subsidies?).

As we get further along in our journey, we should also more clearly be able to articulate measures of success and not only refine our goal but also create lower-level impact maps that lead us toward leading indicators of success.

Can we measure, for example, the number of Dreamers who use our application who would otherwise have been challenged to go through the DACA process? If so, how can we increase that number?

How will immigration attorneys and independent donors become a part of our product ecosystem to help contribute to our goals? We need to define those things, too.

At least, for now, we have a guidepost that maps action to impact and a starting point for incremental, meaningful change in the world.


Are you struggling with mapping your impact to action? Do you have ideas to contribute to our what and our how? We’d love to hear from you!

Respond with a comment here or let us know on Facebook!