Why the Social Sector Needs an Impact Registry
Laissez-faire is never a good thing when it comes to data
For decades, nonprofits, governments, philanthropies and corporations have been dogged by how to measure social impact. Many say the challenge is near-impossible: Every social intervention is customized, every beneficiary is unique, every context is different, data is biased, self-reported data is unreliable, there are no measurement standards, and proving causation is problematic. Every nonprofit is left figuring out its own way to measure and report impact. And every funder is left wondering who and what to trust.
Laissez-faire is never a good thing when it comes to data. As one Scientific American contributor put it: “Crude data is similar to crude oil—in its raw form, it’s usually too messy to be useful.”
Do-it-yourself measurement certainly is not good for cash-strapped nonprofits, who are drowning in data. It’s not a good thing for donors, who have no way to ascertain the impact of nonprofits and can’t generate meaningful insights. And it’s not a good thing for the beneficiaries, whose voices are often not considered.
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