Demonstrating Value Blog

September 16, 2014

Numbers do not speak for themselves.  They need help.  It often seems that the journey to develop a number can be so long that by the time we have finally defined, collected and analyzed an indicator, we often just release them into space with little regard to context and narrative to help others understand their meaning.  



Take this figure for instance:  It cost 2.3 billion dollars to run federal prisons in Canada in 2012.  I know billions is a lot, but what does it really mean?  Is this more or less than last year?  How is this relative to other places?  

The Toronto Sun gives more help along with a little spin to make the taxpayer wake up and take note: “Canadians taxpayers dished out an average of $113,974 to lodge an inmate in a federal prison last year - a 30% increase from four years...

September 11, 2014

Co-operatives create multifaceted value for their members and communities.  They are often formed to respond to specific economic challenges, and create complex social value that is not adequately presented through standard accounting tools.   In response to this challenge, Vancity Community Foundation, in conjunction with the Demonstrating Value Initiative, is launching a project to develop a Performance Snapshot template that responds to the specific management and stakeholder engagement needs of co-operatives. 


As many of you many know, the Performance Snapshot is a management tool that creates an integrated picture of an organization’s performance and that can be used directly in operational decision-making, planning and stakeholder engagement. 

In developing a Performance Snapshot template that is specific to the...

September 10, 2014

A new project is underway that will investigate the collective impacts of social enterprises in Vancouver that are providing employment and training opportunities for people who are marginalized.  Demonstrating Value's Community Partner, the Vancity Community Foundation, is leading the project with funding support from Central City Foundation, Vancity Savings Credit Union, and the Vancouver Foundation..

The project seeks to:

  • gather evidence about health and community development outcomes;
  • develop a monetized estimate of impact; and
  • develop insights into how social enterprises can enhance/and scale their impact.

A goal of this project is to increase legitimacy and policy support for social enterprise as a tool for community development.

This project will employ mixed research methods to investigate impact with the objective of bridging shared measurement methods in evaluation that...

September 9, 2014

I recently came across McKinsey and Company's Learning Driven Assessment Workbook that is based on a great framework for focusing evaluation to meet the needs of different types of programs at different times.  The workbook is a simple on-line tool that is geared to the needs of foundations and investors, and results in an Assessment Plan for measuring social impact.


In my experience, I strongly believe that asking the right questions from the start is key to assessment and learning.  What and how you evaluate must differ according to the nature of the program.  What really resonates with me in this tool is that they have great lists of generic questions that can be tailored to the huge range of work that foundations and Social Finance investors may be supporting.  In working through the tool...

June 9, 2014

Since I first got involved in Demonstrating Value, I've been inspired by the great work out there that is changing how we think, and do measurement.  One group that I am always keen to follow is FSG.   They are a nonprofit consulting firm specializing in strategy, evaluation, and research based in the US.  In recent years they have strongly advocated for shifting our community development approaches to a stronger focus on creating  'collective impact'.   This is where we are much more aware and thoughtful about how impact is the result of the work of many organizations.  They have advanced many new resources that can help organizations to work  in this way, particularly to support how we can collaborate effectively to bring about common desired impact.   


At long last,...

May 28, 2014

In the world of social finance and philanthropy  we are focused on unlocking the key to ‘measuring impact’.  Should we actually be more focused on 'measuring value'?  You may guess from our name that we are a little biased to the latter!


Of course we do want to understand impact, but I think it would also help us to adopt more of a value focus.  'Value' is, according to the Oxford Dictionary, "the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something."  It inherently incompasses impact, but means much more.  If the organization you worked for, or that you invested in, were to dissapear tomorrow, what would be missed?  It's value is not only it's social and/or environmental impact but what what it means to the people that work there, its financial value, the value of its...

May 28, 2014

Since Demonstrating Value was launched, many community-based organizations have developed performance snapshots. The examples on our website have not kept up!   I've recently added four new ones that show snapshots for organizations working in different impact areas including environmental, local food and health. Click on any of the images below to see the snapshots in more detail.


April 30, 2014

Clearsky Retreat Centre, a social enteprise in British Columbia's beautiful Kootenays region, recently developed a performance snapshot of  the centre's grassland restoration project.   You can see there snapshot here   I recently received a review of their experience in using DV tools from Catherine Pawasarat, which is printed below.


For more information about this inspiring centre, follow this link:  Clearsky Retreat Centre.  



Training in Demonstrating Value: A Review

By Catherine Pawasarat

April 29, 2014

When it comes to tracking the  business success of a social enterprise, it’s important to focus in on indicators that are truly important and directly useful to the decisions that you need to make.    When any small business gets off the ground, there is a constant process of evolution in which you are evaluating success and revising what you do  informally, with support from financial tracking and intuition.   But at a certain point, it can be really useful to get more systematic about tracking and analyzing data that can give you more insight into the health of the business and where you need to go next. This is particularly the case when:

  • You are growing and no longer can keep everything in your head.
  • You need to focus a team of people on building the business.
  • You want to engage...
March 27, 2014

When it comes to measuring impact it can be daunting to work out what's tangible and practical to do. You need to be able to think through how your work touches the lives of individuals and the community, and then focus in on measuring what will give you the biggest benefit. This is evidence that would help you fine tune your programs, as well as pieces of information that can support what you communicate.


Asking simply 'what you want to know and show' about your impact is a great way to get at what's important. There are also some other simple exercises that can go further to tease out why you matter.  Chose the one(s) that fit for your organization.You can:


  •  Brainstorm how you...