Deep Dives

Designing strategic programs and measuring social impact

Nicole Lambert
July 19, 2023
Deep Dives

Designing strategic programs and measuring social impact

In a recent article, we covered how to determine if your social impact initiatives are strategic.

A key factor in a strategic social impact program is the ability to measure effectiveness and how the program is making a difference in the community. One way to do that is by using a tool called a logic model

A logic model provides a roadmap for social impact programs: how they are expected to work, what activities need to happen (and in what order) for them to be successful, and how desired outcomes and impact are achieved. 

Not only can logic models be used to develop social impact program strategy, they can also help you execute programming, collect the data needed to monitor and improve programming, and explain the program to key stakeholders. 

To use the logic model as a program design tool, read it from right to left starting with the impact you hope to achieve, then identify the benefits for participants (outcomes), the amount of products and services needed to deliver (outputs), the planned activities to implement, and the resources that are needed to operate the program. 

Let’s walk through the model:

  1. Focus on impact: The impacts are the long-term consequences for the community, society, and the business as a result of the program. A company will often want to achieve business-level and community-level impacts from a program, and both can be built into the logic model. Impacts can take years to happen and measure adequately, so measuring impacts requires patience and adequate long-term commitment and investments. 
  2. Determine outcomes and outputs: Often confused, outcomes and outputs are distinct elements of social impact. Outcomes are the measurable changes for participants in terms of behaviors, skills, or other changes that are expected to result from the program. Outcomes are typically expressed as an increase or decrease on the individual level (for example, an increase in graduation rates or decrease in food insecurity in a targeted community). Outputs, on the other hand, are the overall volume of work or direct results of a program (for example, the number of people reached by a program or the number of employee volunteers and volunteer hours).
  3. Align activities: Activities frequently come to mind when thinking about social impact programs: such as forming partnerships with local community organizations, developing products or services, conducting training, or engaging in social media promotion of programs or events. 
  4. Identify and allocate resources: The inputs (or resources) in a logic model are the time, money, technology, and other materials or management that will be needed for the project. This includes things like volunteers, funds, or “in-kind” donations (donated materials or products). 

When identifying the resources, activities, outputs, outcomes, and impacts of a program, it is key to align interventions across the logic model. For example, you should be able to trace how a particular input or resource (for example, funding), connects to an activity or activities, which result in certain outputs that correspond to an outcome, which ultimately contributes to the desired impact(s). 

Here are a couple of examples of companies that recognize the importance of strategic alignment and measuring the outcomes and impact of their social impact programs:

Empower by GoDaddy is an example of integrating across the “S” of ESG with a joint focus on DEI, social and economic impact, corporate giving, and employee engagement. The program provides training, mentorship and coaching, and in-kind products and services for entrepreneurs. Employees are key drivers of the program, serving as mentors and coaches for entrepreneurs, leveraging their unique skills and capabilities (such as building websites or creating social media content) to support entrepreneurs who go through the program. By aligning their activities to the employee engagement and social impact they hope to achieve, the program is an example of how a logic model can be used in program design. 

The Traveler’s EDGE program was established in 2009 with the goal to increase the number of individuals from underrepresented communities who complete a Bachelor’s degree and are prepared for a career at Traveler’s or in the Insurance and Financial Services (IFS) industry. Traveler’s provides grants to support students and administrative employees at partner colleges and universities and professional development, mentoring, and internship opportunities to students who participate in the program. This engages employees to serve as mentors to Traveler’s EDGE scholars. The program lies at the intersection of business and community DEI goals and impact: hiring diverse talent at Traveler’s and providing support to communities of color through their philanthropic efforts. The Traveler’s EDGE team can clearly trace programmatic outcomes, such as the number of scholars supported with the program and the number of program participants who are hired at Traveler’s or another IFS company after graduation.  

Designing strategic programs and measuring social impact is a challenging, yet integral, component of your social impact strategy. If you are evaluating an existing element of your social impact program or considering whether to partner with an organization or fund a particular activity, map it out on a logic model. Look for connections to the outcomes and impacts the program or partnerships should have. If it doesn’t connect across the logic model, it may be time to reassess the partnership or initiatives for strategic alignment.

Designing strategic programs and measuring social impact
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