Measuring impact: it’s a challenge all social entrepreneurs face. Is an organization or movement really serving the good of society if there is no evidence to support such a claim? Where should the evidence gathering start, particularly in a space where the problems are becoming ever larger, more urgent, complex, and interwoven?

In the human rights space, questions around subjectivity, contribution vs. attribution, confidentiality, and time horizons combine with the hairiness of politics, invisible influencers such as belief systems and cultural norms, and the capricious non-linear nature of social sector problem-solving.

We are in a new era of global problem solving where human rights threads through all sectors, and more than 90 percent of the SDGs. The issues we face today as a global society are complex, growing exponentially, and require a more collaborative and thoughtful approach. These problems are interconnected and rooted in fundamental imbalances of justice.

The panel presented two relatively simple frameworks for consideration. Alex Nicholls took us through a continuum that begins with asking the question of “why measure?”. Answer this first, he says, because impact measurement is difficult and expensive. The answer will help determine how you prioritize and target your measurement process. Whether you are a non-profit, an advocacy group, or a funder, start with this question, says Nicholls. “You might want to know your impact to organize your activities, to allocate your resources, decide which programs work and which don’t, establish a hierarchy of effects,” he said. “You might also need an external set of data to please your funders or governments or other organizations. Benchmarking data can be used by others in your sector to help organize their activities better, so they know what constitutes good and bad practice.”

Peggy Hicks’ MARTIN framework helped to deepen this discussion. Measurability, Attribution, Risk, Time-frame, Inference, and Nature. She spent 10 years at Human Rights Watch as Global Advocacy Director and another five working with the UN. She’s currently the UN’s Director of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. “Some of the things that we’re measuring are some of the more difficult things,” she said “I take Alex’s point that you can still measure them, but there’s qualitative changes rather than quantitative changes. Measure-ability is difficult.”

Read the full article about measuring for impact by Kimberly Hogan at Skoll Foundation.