Five essential practices
The “how” of impact measurement
The Common Foundations provide guidance for how to measure impact. They are a minimum standard. Social purpose organizations can know when their impact measurement practices are ‘good enough.’
The essential practices for how to measure impact.
Plan your intended change
This plan specifies how, and why, your work will bring about change. A diagram—such as a theory of change, outcomes map, or logic model—is often used to illustrate the relationships between actions, performance, and results.
Use performance measures
Performance measures, known as indicators, are another common foundation of many impact measurement approaches. They help you to assess how well your work is carried out, and what effects it has.
Collect useful information
The information collected should be useful enough to you to make it worth the effort. This utility derives both from what information you collect, and from how it is collected, and how often.
Gauge performance and impact
In all impact-measurement approaches is the need to assemble and analyze data. Only through this analysis can you gain insights about what works, and about how well you are doing.
Report on results
The information you collect should be used to produce a balanced account of your work, and the difference it makes. This not only helps you to make better decisions about what to do next; it also allows you to communicate your achievements clearly and persuasively to others.
The Common Foundations of Impact Measurement
At their foundation, all the many tools and approaches to measuring impact share the same five essential practices. Read the essential practices in full.
The Common Foundations self-assessment and online course have been invaluable for us. Both resources clearly mapped out the process of impact measurement while guiding us to break down essential practices into actionable steps. The questions in the assessment provoked reflections about where we are as a small startup and the online course guided us in mapping out how we might work to meet the attainable minimum standard.
A minimum standard
The Common Foundations set a minimum standard, not a gold standard.
Most impact measurement tools and approaches already use the essential practices. If your organization is already doing impact measurement, you probably won’t need to invest additional time, money or skills to align with the Common Foundations.
As long as all five practices are in place, the impact measurement process is good enough.
The Common Foundations are based on a global consensus
There is broad global consensus on the essentials of impact measurement practices. The Common Foundations are based on that global consensus. We followed the “Common Process” from the European Expert Group on Social Economy and Social Enterprise. This process is broadly similar to “Les six grandes étapes” outlined by Territoires innovants en Économie sociale et solidaire (TIESS). And this process was recommended by the Ontario Impact Measurement for Social Enterprise Task Force after consulting with many charities, social enterprises, funders and impact investors. We made a few small changes to the wording, but not to the substance.
The Common Foundations are part of many impact measurement methods
At their foundation, all the many tools and approaches to measuring impact share the same 5 essential practices. The Common Foundations are not new, they highlight what is common.
The Common Foundations fit with other standards
The Common Foundations are compatible with other popular standards. This is not either-or it’s and. A social purpose organization can use the Common Foundations to enhance their work with:
The Common Foundations are consistent with the Montreal Declaration on Evaluation and Social Impact Measurement.
How to align with the Common Foundations
The self-assessment can help your organization determine if it is meeting the minimum standard of impact measurement in Canada. If so, we invite you to say that you are. One way you can do this is by adding the Common Approach logo to your website and reports.
The Common Approach has developed a self-assessment to help social purpose organizations walk through the five essential practices. To complete the self-assessment, simply answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and find out if your organization meets the minimum standard.
The Common Foundations to Impact Measurement: Self Assessment Tool was a catalyst for an important discourse within our organization. The assessment was a quick, thorough and informative way to set a baseline for common practices in impact measurement that our organization could work on throughout our programming. This was especially important as a network organization where quantitative measures are hard to establish. We explored other means of describing our impact such as evaluating the process of change and this helps RCEN better explain our need and impact to future funders and donors.
How to align?
1. Take the self-assessment.
2. Add the Common Approach logo to your website and documents.
To add the Common Approach logo, send a completed self-assessment or information about how the Common Approach is being integrated into your work. Once we have validated your request, we will send you the logo! Email a request at [email protected]
3. Done. Your organization is aligned with the Common Foundations!
Get help meeting the minimum standard and applying the Common Foundations
Here are impact-oriented evaluators, consultants and trainers who are aligning with the Common Foundations and can offer help with impact measurement.
Margerit works as a program planner, evaluator and trainer in the social purpose sector to highlight the critical role of service-providing organizations in addressing social challenges. Deeply influenced by her experiences with adult literacy learners, newcomers,...
As the Social Enterprise Program Manager & Coach at Pillar Nonprofit Network Rachel is part of the Libro Social Enterprise Incubator and Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network. Rachel is a storyteller at heart. Prior to Pillar, she worked with B Lab and made...
Kerri worked for almost 15 years in non-profit and government organizations that were seeking ways to effect change. She worked in roles where she both sought funds and granted funds, which allowed her to see both sides of the evaluation process. Together with four...
Cathy is a program designer, researcher, strategic planner, business developer, and non-profit sector-builder. She has coached numerous social enterprises in designing and testing their social value propositions. She began her career as a social worker with a strong...
Laurie spent much of her early career as a researcher. About ten years ago she applied for a position at Seattle King County Public Health as an evaluator and the 'light went on and she made the shift from researcher to impact evaluator. In 2015, she started Change...
Fifteen years ago, Bryn was applying skills developed through her Master’s program in Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University (SFU) to work as a consultant and researcher. When the opportunity to lead a new pilot program in impact assessment...
The Social Enterprise Institute offers two courses – the Common Foundations of Impact Measurement, a six-part introductory video series (free), and a comprehensive online course ($350), designed for social purpose organizations that are serious about social impact...
Garth has a degree in communication and community economic development and worked passionately with environmental non-profits and university students’ unions through the early 2000s. Garth now uses that expertise to guide his work at Junxion Strategy, to engage with...
Watch the training videos
Get the information you need for meeting the minimum standard by watching our online videos on each essential practice.
That’s another reason why I wanted to be a part of this group: to not have measurement be a chore or a task, but have it be something that’s exciting and fun. Because we’re all so proud of being here and the work that we’re doing.
How do you include the Common Approach?
Common Approach Champions are including the Common Foundations in their capacity-building work.
More like this
Meet the Common Approach teamThe Common Approach is a community-driven initiative. Each part of our expanding network of partners and supporters, including the Champions group, a national social purpose organizations advisory committee, a social funders advisory...
For the standard to grow, people and organizations need to be able to demonstrate that they are using the Common Approach. Social purpose organizations aligning with all five practices, trainers and consultants, developers can request use of the identifier.
Meet consultants Cathy Lang, Kerri Klein, Laurie Ringaert, and Garth Yule. They have incorporated Common Foundations into their work with social purpose organizations.
Common Foundations Leadership
The initial articulation of the Common Foundations benefited from the following organizations.
Need help applying the Common Foundations?
See our Champions profiles.
Take the training with our partners at Social Enterprise Institute.
6 Courses on the Common Foundations
Difficulty Level: Intermediate