Making Sense of Social Impact: Acumen’s Building Blocks for Impact Analysis

Making Sense of Social Impact: Acumen’s  Building Blocks for Impact Analysis

What does social impact mean? How does Acumen assess social impact when considering potential investments? How can you apply the same concepts elsewhere?

One of the most common questions we get is how we measure our impact. Is it just the number of lives impacted? How do we know if the goods and services our companies provide are improving lives? When do social and financial goals coincide, and when do they deviate? These questions are core to our work to create a world beyond poverty.

Together with Acumen’s Impact Team, we’ve developed this introductory course to help you understand how we analyze impact in our portfolio and how you can apply the same building blocks to any socially-focused company or organization that you are personally excited about. We believe this course will be especially insightful for those interested in impact investing, but it is by no means limited to that audience. Whether you are a philanthropist, a professional in the nonprofit, impact investing or social entrepreneurship field, or if you just want to “do good” in a better way, this course is for you. The world needs you to lead.

You'll Love This Course If

  • You are someone looking to create a positive change in the world and would like to know if you are actually having an impact
  • You are interested in using impact analysis as a guide to improving the effectiveness of the work you do
  • You are seeking clarity in the constantly changing conversations on defining impact
  • You are curious to gain perspective on how your way of thinking about impact compares to the way others may think of impact
  • You are curious about how Acumen considers and measures their work’s impact
  • You work in, or are keen to work in, the impact investing space and are interested in broadening your understanding of impact

What You'll Learn

By the end of this four-module course, you will:

  • Understand what Acumen means by social impact and how Acumen assesses it
  • Be able to apply that framework to an organization/an initiative that you personally care about – your “Impact Challenge”

This is an introductory level course. There is another +Acumen course ‘Lean Data Approaches to Measure Social Impact’ where you can dive deeper into using mobile tools for impact analysis.

Course Outline

Module 1: Introduction to Social Impact Analysis

  • Understand Acumen’s framework for impact analysis
  • Understand how to think about the ‘Breadth’ of your impact
  • Identify your ‘Impact Challenge’ to work on throughout this course

Module 2: Depth of Impact & Theory of Change

  • Understand how to think about the ‘Depth’ of your impact using Acumen’s framework
  • Understand Acumen’s Theory of Change framework
  • Create your own Theory of Change for your ‘Impact Challenge’

Module 3: Focus on the Poor (the Target Market)

  • Understand what we mean by ‘Focus on the Poor’ and why it is the third component of Acumen’s impact analysis
  • Understand how the PPI (Progress out of Poverty Index) can be used to measure the extent to which a company or organization is reaching the poor
  • Reflect upon how the concept could be (or could not be) applicable to your ‘Impact Challenge’ and its target market

Module 4: Evidence Review

  • Understand the role of evidence reviews in social impact analysis
  • Practice reviewing evidence for your ‘Impact Challenge’
  • Review and iterate your Theory of Change draft

Module 5: Data Collection/Looking Forward

  • Understand the basics of data collection and become familiar with a plan template
  • Understand what IRIS metrics are and how they could be integrated with your data plan
  • Understand how Acumen is collecting data
  • Synthesize your learning throughout this course and identify your next step for your ‘Impact Challenge’

How The Course Works

There are no in-person teachers or facilitators for this course.  We strongly encourage you to go through the course with a group of 2-4 other individuals. This course can be taken individually, but we believe your learning will be further enriched in a group. You can either (1) invite your friends/colleagues to take this course with you or (2) Join and participate in the course forum to find other learners to be in your group (we will provide instructions in Module 1).

Course content will consist of short videos, readings and exercises. It is important that you have a ‘Impact Challenge’ in mind — your own social enterprise, a non-profit in your community, a well-known national charity, a government program, a CSR initiative, or a company with a social mission.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will a certificate be awarded upon completion of the course?

We will provide a Statement of Accomplishment for individuals that complete all requirements.

If I take this course in a group, do my group members need to be in the same location?

We recommend signing up with a group that is all physically located in the same place. Much of the value of this course derives from the in-person, peer-to-peer learning that happens between group members. With that said, we have had groups cover many of the group discussions over Skype or Google+ hangouts so it is possible to have a remote group.

Remember, all members of your group need to individually register for this course.

What is the ideal size for my group?

We generally recommend a group of 2 to 5 individuals. If your group is too big, it can be more difficult to coordinate schedules and conduct group sessions together for all of the modules.

How much does it cost to take this course?

It’s Free!

Are there any prerequisites for taking this course?

This is an introductory course and there are no prerequisites.

What are the technical requirements?

This course will be provided by a platform called NovoEd. Please review NovoEd Technical Requirements and Browser Compatibility’. They have additional information on Mobile Compability and Low-Bandwidth Support.

You need a computer that allows you to watch videos through this platform, download our course materials (PDF reading) and the ability to upload your assignments.

More questions?

Please contact

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Community Stories

  • Makoto Matsuura

    Osaka, Japan | "Making Sense of Social Impact: Acumen's Building Blocks for Impact Analysis"

    I joined this course thinking I already understood the framework for measuring social impact, but the course materials and the discussions with my course group really challenged my thinking. These examples pushed my group to think more critically about quantifying the ways our work in the field…

    Read More

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