Common Impact Data Standard
The data standard makes better analysis possible
You can think of the Common Impact Data Standard as a system for organizing your impact data. It provides a place for everything so that everything can be in its place. It makes it easier for software to be designed to support better impact analysis. This makes it easier to share and aggregate data.
What is the Common Impact Data Standard?
The Common Impact Data Standard is a standardized way to represent a social purpose organization’s (SPO) impact model (i.e. their theory of change, logic model, outcome chain, etc). It is a way to represent impact as defined by the Impact Management Project Norms (now housed at Impact Frontiers). It enables the exchange of impact information between organizations regardless of the impact models being used.
We understand “impact” as a change in outcomes for people and the planet. To represent impact, the Common Impact Data Standard represents the five dimensions: what, who, how much, contribution and risk, plus a sixth dimension of how.
Built on linked data and using the JSON-LD exchange format, the Common Impact Data Standard also allows for data interoperability. This means that any aligned software can read the bespoke data sets and reports coming in from another aligned software platform. Links to data can be shared from platform to platform with little human effort.
The Common Impact Data Standard represents impact models
We use “impact models” as a general term to describe a family of similar relational maps such as a logic model, logical framework analysis, a theory of change, outcome chain, impact map, results framework, and outcomes map. The Common Impact Data Standard also represents the processes by which an SPO delivers outcomes to or with its stakeholders.
The Common Impact Data Standard is defined using the OWL semantic web ontology language and conforms to linked data standards.
A widely adopted data standard will create a uniform representation of impact while allowing each organization the flexibility to design an impact model that is most relevant to it and its stakeholders.
Using software aligned with the Common Impact Data Standard is the easiest way for social purpose organizations (SPOs) to “use” the data standard.
The benefits of a Common Impact Data Standard
- Better impact. Each organization makes some difference, but their most impactful stories are when the data can be connected and aggregated. The Common Impact Data Standard allows networks to pool data, see the impact, and use the data to improve impact.
- Sophisticated analysis. The Common Impact Data Standard makes it possible for researchers to integrate their data, creating many new opportunities for analysis (e.g., longitudinal and transversal studies) using a variety of methods. This has the potential to lead to a better understanding of needs and a better understanding of what works.
- More autonomy. Donors, investors, and government agencies are increasingly aware that old impact reporting techniques have been a burden to grantees and investors. The Common Impact Data Standard provides funders with the standard formats they need to understand portfolio-level impacts while leaving SPOs the autonomy to measure impact in ways that best fit their own data needs.
- Less paperwork. The Common Impact Data Standard allows impact data to be represented in ways that can accommodate the reporting needs of diverse funders. SPOs utilizing the Common Impact Data Standard will need to do less custom reporting.
- Greater visibility. The Common Impact Data Standard can enable the tagging of an organization’s content on the internet, making it easier for search engine users to find impact content on the web.
- More versatility. The Common Impact Data Standard makes it easier for organizations to connect their impact measurement with other measurement standards, such as the UN SDG Global Indicator Framework, IRIS+, the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) Standard and others.
The Common Impact Data Standard is ready
Alignment Tiers for Software Developers
The software can capture the most basic level of impact data (Organization name, outcomes and indicators).
Classes included are:
- Organization (legal name)
- Outcome (name, description)
- Indicator (name, description)
- IndicatorReport (name, value, comment)
- Theme (name)
The software can capture all of the Basic Tier plus impact data according to Impact Management Norms*.
Classes included are:
- All Basic Tier classes, plus:
- Organization (Org ID, issuedBy)
- Outcome (code, theme)
- IndicatorReport (baseline, time)
- Theme (code, description)
- Stakeholder (description, location)
- Characteristic (name, value, code)
- StakeholderOutcome (Name, Code, isUnderserved, hasImportance, description)
- Impact Report (name, time, ImpactScale, ImpactDepth, comment)
The software can capture all of the Essential Tier, plus full impact models (e.g. theory of change or outcomes map) and characteristics of data quality.
Classes included are:
- All Essential Tier classes, plus:
- ImpactModel (all)
- Outcome (canProduce, canEnable)
- Indicator (usesOutput, threshold, generatedBy, dataset)
- IndicatorReport (all)
- StakeholderOutcome (fromThePerspectiveOf, IntendedImpact)
- Impact Report (hasReportedImpact, ImpactRisk, ImpactDuration, hasExpectation, Counterfactual)
* Impact Norms are now housed at Impact Frontiers.
See the alignment checklist for more details about the properties for each of these classes.
Impact Software Developers Aligned with the Data Standard
The Common Impact Data Standard is embedded into social impact software offered by these developers. This allows social purpose organizations to access the standard without becoming data scientists. When looking for an impact data tracking tool, look for one that is aligned with the Common Approach.
If you are a software developer interested in learning more about how your software can align with the Common Impact Data Standard, please get in touch!
How the Common Impact Data Standard was developed
The Common Impact Data Standard was released in collaboration with Mark Fox at the Centre for Social Services Engineering at the University of Toronto.
To create this standard, the Common Approach consulted with experts and aligned with other leading standards, such as the Impact Management Project (now housed at Impact Frontiers), which itself consulted with over 2000 impact professionals.
Following the norms identified by the Impact Management Project, the Common Impact Data Standard has defined the necessary objects and relationships to represent the who, what, how much, contribution and risk of impact. In addition to these five dimensions, the Common Impact Data Standard includes information on inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes (as would be in a program logic model or theory of change) to describe how the impact occurs.