Giving Compass’ Take:
• NPC describes ways to measure impact in philanthropic work (by citing a specific youth program), and the risk of inconsistency when comparing benefit-cost ratios.
• How can we an adopt a more holistic way to track the effectiveness of nonprofits?
As part of our three-year learning journey with the £40m Youth Investment Fund, we’ve been tasked with assessing the potential economic value of the youth programs it’s funding. In preparation, I’ve been reading previous economic evaluations of youth programs.
It’s got me thinking about what we can all learn about value and impact from the process of economic analysis — whether we’re economists or not.
A striking observation, when you’re reading economic evaluations of similar programs, is the variation in the methodology evaluators use. This isn’t just the technical aspects of how value is estimated (e.g., discount rates, deadweight and attributions — which can have very substantial implications for results). At a more intuitive level, the variation occurs because there are so many things you could value. After all, social programs have wide reaching and complex impacts on our lives. The result is that different economic evaluations often include different sorts of impacts in their estimations of how much ‘value’ programs generates, even when the programs have lots in common.
Let me illustrate with the example of a youth club.
Youth work creates intrinsic value for participants — feeling better about yourself, having more self-confidence, getting on better with people. It’s possible to estimate what these improvements to subjective wellbeing are “worth” to people experiencing them. But these attributes are not just intrinsically valuable, they might have long lasting impacting on the lives of young people and their communities.
Read the full article about measuring the multiplicity of impact by Anoushka Kenley at thinknpc.org.
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