Demonstrating Value Blog

November 20, 2013

I’ve been following examples of shared measurement with great interest. This term refers to the practice of building a better foundation of data on community outcomes that can serve the needs multiple organizations. I've mainly heard about projects led by foundations and by grass root initiatives in education, public health and community economic development.  I’ve recently realized though that there are also some great examples of shared data initiatives based at Canadian universities, including CIEEDAC (, which has been doing great work improving the quality of energy and emissions data in industry.


CIEEDAC is a mouthful of an acronym that stands for the Canadian Industrial Energy End-Use and Data Analysis Centre, a non-profit...

October 23, 2013

We've just added a new guide that presents approaches to monitoring and assessing the social impacts of affordable housing. This will be of interest for organizations that seek to maintain or increase the availability of affordable housing stock, provide outreach to connect people with services and housing, increase the affordability of housing (e.g. rent subsidies, mortgages) and that...

October 16, 2013

In the era of greater data accessibility and new tools, many people and organizations are finding fascinating ways to use data to educate, convince and make connections about the social and environmental challenges of our time.  Here are 10 interesting tools and visualizations that I've come across that give a sense of the scope and range of the data visualization world out there. 

  1. Walkability Index:
  2. Rich Block, Poor Blocks:
  3. Pay Equity:
  4. US Prison Population:
October 15, 2013

With its singular history of rugged collective-individualism, Calgary played host to the Social Enterprise World Forum as over a thousand people descended to share, connect and advance social enterprise world-wide during the first week of October. With good cheer and a rodeo welcome, organizers in Calgary did an awesome job of creating the space and program to celebrate our success and critically examine how we can take social enterprise to the next level.  I was privileged to be an invited speaker on the topic of measuring social impact. Here are some of my reflections from the session. 


Given that the session took place during the last non-plenary timeslot on the last day, I was pretty impressed to see a packed room for the session.  This topic came up in many of the preceding sessions and I think it is a significant...

October 9, 2013

Love it or hate it, spreadsheets are the number one data tracking tool in many community-based organizations. Unless you are, or have a spreadsheet geek on staff, most of us mainly learn enough to get by - perhaps a few functions, the basics of doing formulas, possibly graphs.  For most people, entering and tracking data in  spreadsheets is easy, but analyzing can be painful.  Here is my wisdom learned from decades of spreadsheeting to make your spreadsheet going a bit easier.


Pretend you're somebody else. The seemingly inconsequential spreadsheet file that you’ve started may end up being a key file that is added on to, and used for years by multiple people, long after you’ve left the organization.   Take the extra five minutes to imagine you are somebody else looking at it...

October 8, 2013

In past posts you may have followed our research project with the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets to develop a Farmers’ Market Impact Toolkit.This toolkit was piloted with 9 farmers markets in the summer of 2012 in British Columbia (Canada) and a final version of the toolkit is posted here on our website.


Here are just some of the insights into the important value of farmers’ markets in local communities based on the six markets that completed surveys with their stakeholders. This represents 117 customers, 84 vendors, 5 market managers and 18 external stakeholders.


While these data are not  a statistically validated sample that can be used to extrapolate findings to farmers’ markets generally, ...

October 8, 2013

Tracking impact measurement in social enterprises can come out of the basic process and system development that should naturally occur in any business.  I recently advanced this notion in my presentation at the Social Enterprise World Forum last week, and have been thinking more about how this should be done. Here are some ideas.


Below  is a typical diagram of typical systems and processes that are developed in an enterprise (I nabbed this from Google images the night before the presentation).  I added in additional features that are  unique to social enterprise in blue (not all apply to all enterprise, but many to most).  Note that the blue text doesn't float, but is quite rooted in processes that are part of any business, and the subject of process development.  Since process and system development is intrinsically linked with tracking, you automatically have the basis for impact tracking too!  Most softwares solutions include great data tracking features...

August 9, 2013

I recently spoke with Michelle Strutzenberger, of Axiom News, about the state and future direction of impact measurement in anticipation of my participation in the panel  'Measuring and Demonstrating Impact'  at the Social Enterprise World Forum taking place in Calgary October 2-4. It was a great opportunity to reflect about my experience in the last six years of working in this area, and to articulate where I see this work evolving. The story will be published as part enpCanada stories, the news service for Enterprising Non-profits Canada.


Here are my reflections to Michelle's questions:

1. What’s the commitment you hold that brings you to be involved...

August 9, 2013

"There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns - there are things we do not know we don't know."


-Former US of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld


This infamous quote left some people befuddled, others impressed.  While this quote emerged from the context of linking the government of Iraq with weapons of mass destruction, uncertainty (everything but the known knowns) pervades the  world of evaluation, social impact assessment and performance measurement.  Still, we acknowledge it in a fairly limited way, and dealing with it explicitly is...

August 9, 2013

I came across this nifty tool when I attended the 6th ANSER conference in Victoria, June 6, 2013. The Community Capital Tool is a decision support and assessment tool, based on the community capital framework, that is designed to facilitate and ground community discussion about integrated planning and monitoring.


At the conference, Gretchen Hernandez, Sean Markey, Alfredo Seoane  and Alberto Mollinedo described the tool and its application in Bolivia.

The community capital framework stems from the work of Cornelia and Jan Flora who advanced that communities that were successful in supporting healthy sustainable community and economic development paid attention to seven types of capita - natural, cultural, human, social, political, financial and built – and how they interacted and built on one another....