The Common Foundations set a minimum standard for the “how” of impact measurement in five essential practices.
Five essential practices for how to measure impact.
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. If you are not already doing impact measurement, be sure to ask if impact measurement is right for your organization.
As long as all five practices are in place, the impact measurement process is good enough.
Describe your intended change
A description of the intended change is a foundational practice of all impact measurement approaches. The description must specify how and why your work will bring about change. It can be as simple as a paragraph describing the change, sometimes called an impact thesis. It can also be a diagram—such as a theory of change, outcomes map, or logic model.
The use of indicators to measure change is another essential practice of many impact measurement approaches. Indicators help you to assess how well you carried out your work and what effect your work has.
Collect useful information
An essential practice of impact measurement is that the information collected should be useful. Information collection should not be burdensome for your organization, or for those from whom you are collecting information. It should help you improve your work and demonstrate that you are making progress.
Gauge performance and impact
Implicit 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.
Communicate and use results
Implicit in all impact measurement approaches is the importance of communicating and using the data that you collect and analyze. “Use” can mean many things: informing, learning, improving, action. Communicate your results in such a way that people understand how you came up with your conclusions.
Read about how the Common Foundations evolved from Version 1.0 to Version 2.0 here.
How the Common Foundations were developed
The Common Foundations are based on a broad global consensus on the essentials of impact measurement practices and highlight the essential practices that are common to many different tools and approaches to measuring impact. To identify the shared practices that are the Common Foundations, we reviewed over 500 tools and resources. We also looked at how those before us described the essential practices.
The Common Foundations align with other standards and approaches
The Common Foundations reiterate the essential practices that are common to many different approaches and frameworks. The Common Foundations are therefore compatible with many other standards.
Any organization using one of the many existing tools or approaches is likely already doing the Common Foundations! If you are not, these tools and approaches will help you start doing the five essential practices that are the Common Foundations.
Do you meet the Common Foundations standards?
Confirming your alignment can be done quickly and easily, using Common Approach’s self-assessment tool. A series of “yes” or “no” questions will help you determine whether your organization is already meeting the basic standards of impact measurement, or identify areas that may require attention.
Essentially, the self-assessment asks you, “Does your organization do all the essential practices of the Common Foundations?”
- If yes, your organization meets the minimum standard!
- If no, the assessment will have identified some areas for improvement that could help make your impact measurement more useful.
If you took the self-assessment for Version 1.0 and scored 100%, you continue to meet the minimum standard for Version 2.0 and are invited to officially adopt the standard.
How to officially adopt the Common Foundations
1. Take the self-assessment. If you answer “yes” to each of the Common Foundations essential practices, you meet the standard!
2. Add the Common Approach logo to your website and documents.
You will receive resources, including Common Approach logos and sample text, five to ten businesses days after completing the self-assessment. If you have already completed the assessment and have not yet received these materials, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Join the Common Approach community.
Sign up for our mailing list so you do not miss opportunities to provide feedback and contribute to the continued development of the Common Approach standards for impact measurement. You can also join the conversation on LinkedIn and Twitter!
That’s it – your organization is aligned with the Common Foundations!
Engaging those most affected
Engaging with different people affected by the work of an organization is an essential practice of impact measurement.
However, the Common Foundations aim to articulate practices that at least 60% of organizations are already doing. The consultations that helped us to identify these practices also suggested that 60% of SPOs are not currently engaging meaningfully with those who are most affected in their impact measurement work. Because of this, engaging with those most affected is not currently a required element of the Common Foundations.
Instead, we have identified where we see opportunities for engagement and included these as future-looking practices throughout Version 2.0 of the Common Foundations. Our hope is that organizations will begin to consider and plan for this practice in anticipation of it being included in a future version of the standard.
Looking ahead to Version 3.0
The Common Approach hopes that impact measurement practice will move increasingly towards practices of genuine involvement of and engagement with those most affected.
The development of Version 3.0 will include changes to the minimum standard that reflect changes in actual impact measurement practices over the next five or so years. It is expected that Version 3.0 will have increased expectations and required practices around engaging with those most affected by an organization’s actions.
The Common Foundations is grateful for the work of the organizations whose work these standards are based on, and to the many people who helped develop and revise Version 2.0.