Impact Assessment is the CSR game-changer

Impact can be defined in different ways for every organisation’s CSR. One of the methods is by calculating return on investment wherein we measure the monetary value of benefits derived by the beneficiaries. The impact may also be based on the measurement of the outreach of a CSR project. For certain organisations, the impact can be defined as the actual change– social and environmental. An insight-driven method of evaluating social impact is mapping the behaviour change among the beneficiaries receiving the interventions. Assessments of impact differ as the organisations adopt their respective understanding of it.

Impact assessment has become a medium through which organisations can communicate to their key stakeholders—their implementation partners, shareholders, and board of directors about the effect of the initiatives shared with the beneficiaries.
For a CSR program to succeed, building commitment towards a singular and long-term vision of change from the key stakeholders like the board of directors is required. A committed board then directs the project towards producing a sustainable change in the lives of its beneficiaries. It is equally important to build trust among the beneficiaries. Accurate impact assessment can aid in building commitment from internal stakeholders and trust within the external stakeholders as it continues to identify the successes and limitations of the program.

In order to conduct an impact assessment that delivers on these key areas, investment to acquire expertise is imperative. It is also important to develop appropriate skill sets across the various partnerships for efficient and effective execution of a CSR project.

More often than not, CSR programs are evaluated on their investments and returns. There is a need for a shift in this approach and to capture the data on the lives impacted. This can be done using quantitative surveys with the beneficiaries and key stakeholders. These quantitative surveys can help identify the key changes we bring in through our programs. To complement these findings there is a need to understand the underlying reasons for change among the beneficiaries, which qualitative interviews can help address and build social impact stories.

Impact assessment helps the board direct the CSR funds towards its optimum utilization, where initiatives that have a maximum impact can be scaled up while programs leading to limited impact can be curtailed. For organisations implementing programmes in partnership with social organisations, it can be a useful exercise of capacity-building, where the two organisations can work closely towards achieving their common goals through the knowledge of outcomes shared by such assessments. The outcomes of these assessments can also be a way of communicating with the wider eco-system of beneficiaries who can learn about the impact and build their own agency towards addressing the community challenges. It becomes a proof-of-concept that organisations can use to build and scale their programs across geographies.

At WPP Foundation, we have defined its theory of change through a key process map which helps to direct our work towards achieving our vision through robust impact. The theory of change has identified over 20 interventions focussing on outcomes such as increasing retention in secondary schools, improving learning outcomes, enhancing work-readiness skills and addressing key social norms.

Through robust measurements, foundations can take quick and corrective decisions on regular intervals to ensure the rigour of their work in line with defined goals, as well as enables partners to build capacity to address gaps. This requires us to spend disproportionately. The positive encouragement towards this can be observed with government mandates now allowing more percentage funding towards Research & Development within CSR.

Rama A. Iyer, Director General WPP India CSR Foundation – December 7, 2019.

Director General at WPP India CSR Foundation. She is also a panel member to the World CSR Congress, nomination for ‘Expert Trainer in guiding CSR consultants develop strategies for Indian SMEs and exporters with a special focus on the European Market’. She has partnered with state-level Governments for evaluating, developing and advising in creating IEC material for interventions related to health, hygiene, gender, nutrition and skill development.