The story so far

The Common Approach is an evolving story about the growing impact measurement community.

Social purpose organizations are at the centre of the Common Approach so that every organization can tell their story of impact in a meaningful way. The Common Approach is making it possible to have a flexible standard that works for funders and impact investors – and that works for people working toward beneficial social and environmental impact around the world.

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In 2015, the Government of Ontario conducted a series of consultations that resulted in Ontario’s Social Enterprise Strategy. Following that, The Social Enterprise Measurement Task Force convened to inform the development of an impact measurement plan. The Task Force recommended a path forward: the Common Approach to Impact Measurement.

Today, Common Approach is a community-driven initiative that’s growing across Canada and beyond.

A flexible standard for impact measurement

What makes the Common Approach different is that it is a flexible standard. The notion of “anything goes” means that there’s no “right way” to identify impact measurement indicators. The standard makes it possible to map the impact data in a way that creates sets of aggregated impact. So it is possible to communicate with a wide variety of collaborators and  to evaluate and improve impact. A flexible standard supports a community of practice, which means that social purpose organizations can lead the way on social impact measurement.

There are three things the Common Approach holds as the key to social impact measurement. First, a surprising and recurring finding from people who study standards is that flexibility is needed to allow a standard to survive. Secondly, standards are communities, not documents. It’s about building collective action that sees the benefit and brings harmony to what we’re doing. Finally, the third thing is to make it possible for it to be adopted. Meet people where they are – and ratchet up the rigour later.

Adoption has to be easy, but simple is hard. It requires bringing together the collective knowledge and creating a movement of social purpose organizations, data platforms, funders and impact investors, trainers and consultants. We are making a fresh start by building on work that’s been happening for decades. The Common Approach is research-based and evidenced informed. However, it’s also a community-driven effort to make it possible to develop a standard that works for social purpose organizations and their funders and investors.

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