A look at “Social Sector Hero” by Clear Impact CEO Adam Luecking

A new book, Social Sector Hero, provides some great examples and arguments for flexible, shareable social purpose organization (SPO)-centered impact data—music to our Common Approach ears.

Adam Luecking, CEO of Clear Impact and author of Social Sector Hero, argues that we need “flexible systems” for measuring results. Only flexible systems, he argues, lead to the best data-based decisions possible:

“Why ‘systems’ and ‘flexibility’? They kind of seem like opposites, don’t they? Well, systems make efforts repeatable, measurable, and scalable. Flexibility allows diverse people, groups, and circumstances to adapt systems to their unique assets, insights, and perspectives without blowing up the bridge to the original mission…

So how do you create flexibility? You focus more on the ends, rather than the means: more focus on what you want [your collaborators] to accomplish, and less on the details and minutiae of how they accomplish it.” (Social Sector Hero, page 9)

Yes, Yes, and Yes! 

Common Approach invites funders and investors to set broad themes that they are interested in funding progress toward and then trust the social purpose organizations (SPOs) who are their grantees or investees to identify the pathways to get there. When funders prescribe what must be measured, they inadvertently prescribe how the work ought to be done. Luecking says it well: funders and investors should “focus more on the ends, rather than the means.

Learn more about how Funders and Investors can align with the Common Approach Standards.

But what about data overload?

Funders and investors often prescribe indicators so that they avoid data overload. Permitting grantees and investees to choose their own indicators can get overwhelming. Social Sector Hero discusses this challenge:

“Say you expect your grantees to report 20 Performance Measures and you have 20 funded programs. This means you have 400 Performance Measures to evaluate. It doesn’t sound fun, does it? And if your grantees aren’t reporting on similar or identical measures, the problem is exacerbated.” Social Sector Hero, page 66

Software is key

Common Approach believes that software is an essential part of flexible, shareable SPO-centered impact data—Luecking agrees.

Social Sector Hero argues for a “unified data system” so that “every one of your grantees is using the same data management system to report data to you” (Social Sector Hero, page 121).

With the Common Impact Data Standard, funders and investors don’t need to require the SPOs they fund or invest in to use their system. They can import impact data from any aligned software.

Clear Impact offers SPOs an intuitive, easy-to-use platform to collect, record and analyze their impact data, including narrative case management reports. Clear Impact offers funders effective tools for analyzing many data across a portfolio of SPOs.

Importantly, Clear Impact is aligned with the Common Impact Data Standard (v2.1) so that SPOs using Clear Impact can export their data to their funders without re-entering it again and again and again. The full benefits of the Common Impact Data Standard will be realized when many, many softwares have aligned. So far, Clear Impact is one of several! See the other aligned softwares.

Check out Social Sector Hero! We like it because it…

…is easy to read.

…gives lots of examples

…offers practical advice that reduces the time and resources required to measure results (like how to streamline metrics to avoid data overload)

…emphasizes that SPOs, not their funders, should be choosing the metrics (yes!)

…notes that funders get better data with a flexible system (yes, yes and yes!)

▶️ Aligned Software Webinars

Watch the demonstration of the Clear Impact software from our Aligned Software Webinar series, and subscribe to the Common Approach YouTube channel for upcoming resources like this!

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Published September 18, 2023

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