Executive Summary: Impact Measurement & Evaluation for Impact Investing

How does the impact investment field establish evidence about its contributions to positive social and environmental impacts?

StartingUpGood Magazine
2 min readFeb 17, 2017


As the ones who coined the term “impact investing” in 2007, The Rockefeller Foundation certainly has a vested interest in exploring ways to further and promote the evolution of impact investing.

In its recent report Situating the Next Generation of Impact Measurement and Evaluation for Impact Investing (October 2016), The Foundation focuses on the importance of measuring social impact and proposes a typology for how social and environmental changes are currently measured.

Authored by evaluation professionals, the paper takes a critical look at current methodologies. It classifies them into four clusters and provides an illustrative case example for each.

  1. Standards

Such as:

  • IRIS inventory of metrics developed by GIIN
  • Global Impact Investment Rating System (GIIRS) as applied by B Analytics
  • Environmental, social and governance measures (ESG) which are commonly used to rate public companies
  • Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) which is commonly used by corporations to report on their sustainability performance

2. Performance Monitoring

Regularly collecting data - financial data, activity and output data, and outcomes — on key indicators to assess social performance. Targets and benchmarks are often associated with performance monitoring.

3. Rigorous Outcome and Impact Measurement

In many instances, evaluators measure contribution to impact more often than they measure attribution, due to practical and ethical constraints of using methods that would enable more robust inferences of causation, such as randomized control trials. The range of evaluative techniques is broad and similar to techniques employed by performance monitoring, such as surveys, interviews, and secondary data analysis.

4. Market Systems Analysis

This is a suite of methods that addresses systemic impact (or “policies or activities implemented at scale and that influence long-term outcomes”) rather than incremental change (or services, technologies, and practices that are more near-term and operate at smaller relative scale). These require more robust measurement strategies, typically mixed methods with both qualitative and quantitative data collection approaches. An impact thesis (or theory of change) is essential.

The paper concludes by promoting a convergence of all of these methods to develop new mindsets and approaches that can be widely shared and employed.

Included in the research are several helpful charts and tables that illustrate the potential capital available for social good, show the differences between private and social sector evaluation, and identify the risks and barriers of social impact measurement.

Read this interesting report in its entirety for a good overview of the current state of impact measurement and evaluation and how the field must evolve to for impact investing to reach its full potential.



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