Evidence of Impact

What social entrepreneurs need to know when it comes to demonstrating impact

A starting point amidst the alphabet soup of impact measurement

Arguably, as a social enterprise, your business model is designed to increase impact as your business becomes more successful, which means that your indicators of impact should be aligned with indicators of business success. There are a lot of free resources available for you to consider using (and we have curated several of them in a separate article, see Next Steps section below), but I would argue that the most important thing for you to know is this:

Measuring your impact should lead to insights that allow you to make better decisions when it comes to managing your business. If you are spending precious resources producing “evidence of impact” that does not lead to actionable insights, then you should work to re-align your business model or the indicators you are using.

people in a brainstorming session Ashoka

In June, young changemakers attended a workshop to foster their role as co-leaders of Ashoka's Everyone a Changemaker Movement by redefining what it means to grow up in today's world. Photo Credit: Ashoka

To get you thinking about this topic, here are nine paraphrased insights from our contributors—all leaders in innovation, social business, and impact management—to get you inspired:

  • Alexis Bonnell, USAID: With self-reliance being the ultimate impact we should strive for, the most important question a social entrepreneur can ask themselves is, do people actually want the products and services I am selling?
  • Rabayl Mirza, Business Call to Action: The best thing a company can do—and they can do this now—is to be transparent about the evidence of impact they have and the process they have used to gather that evidence.
  • Jed Emerson, Blended Value: Impact is not just something we act upon, but rather an opportunity to transform ourselves and understand the value of our own lives.
  • Bill Drayton, Ashoka: The greatest impact we can have in tackling “the new inequality” is understanding that we ourselves are changemakers and ensuring our teams and our families understand that about themselves, too.
  • Liv Elson, Results for Development: We should pay attention to the companies with over a million clients or customers—and those who are on their way to scaling to that size—as they have a lot to teach us about making an impact.
  • Tom Harrison, Business Innovation Facility: Multinational corporations could and should be having a bigger impact in serving the poor than they currently do—and more work needs to be done to scale their promising pilots to their full potential.
  • Sasha Dichter, 60 Decibels: Thanks to the technology revolution, there is a huge opportunity for social businesses to get more data from their customers to help them understand—and iterate—their impact.
  • Cassy Rodriguez, Securing Water for Food: To have the greatest impact, innovators and social entrepreneurs must ask the “what if” questions.
  • Nicholas Colloff, Argidius Foundation: Measuring impact is a cost to business, so it is mission critical that you are effective and efficient in selecting your indicators; don’t choose too many and make sure the ones you do choose help you to understand your business, which is the platform for your impact.
child with slide ruler

Providing evidence of impact in the right way requires a careful selection of the right tools and indicators. Photo Credit: 60 decibels

These insights offer just a snapshot of what this issue of CLUED-iN has to offer. Check out the full interviews and blog posts for much more!

Next steps for entrepreneurs
Practical tools for businesses

For this CLUED-iN issue, there is an additional curated piece with selected tools and frameworks for social entrepreneurs and stakeholders to get started with impact measurement.

Find the one that fits your individual situation best!

Dana Gulley
Dana joined iBAN as the Editor-in-Chief of its online magazine, CLUED-iN, in July 2018. She is the founder and lead consultant at Third Peak Solutions, a firm that advises businesses and nonprofits on developing innovative strategies to solve our world’s most pressing challenges. A trained mediator with a background in natural resources and business administration, Dana has spent her career building cross-sector partnerships to tackle both energy and water issues.


Demystifying Impact Measurement and Management for Inclusive Businesses

The message was clear at the recent UNGA: the world is not moving quickly enough towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Mirza offers specific and practical steps that inclusive businesses can take to measure and grow their impact today.
Inclusive Business Action Network
Table of contents

graphic summary


A visual summary of the key challenges entrepreneurs need to consider when it comes to and impact measurement in inclusive business and social entrepreneurship. Learn more about these aspects by reading this eighth edition of the newly…


Well, does your inclusive business have customers?

Bonnell identifies an opportunity to move away from the concept of a hero entrepreneur, who serves beneficiaries, and instead strive to serve customers, who are free to choose the products and services they want. To do this is to have the ultimate impact.

Alexis Bonnell

feature story

Nine 'impact insights' for social entrepreneurs like you

For businesses who are serving the poor, there is no shortage of discussions on impact. As a social entrepreneur, the sheer abundance of “impact lingo” that is floating around these days might leave you daunted, unsure of the right tools, techniques and frameworks for your business. The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all technique to measuring impact. An important question for you to ask yourself is: who is this information for, and why?

Dana Gulley

Demystifying Impact Measurement and Management for Inclusive Businesses

The message was clear at the recent UNGA: the world is not moving quickly enough towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Mirza offers specific and practical steps that inclusive businesses can take to measure and grow their impact today.

To change the world, we must change ourselves

Emerson warns against adopting one form of impact measurement—and argues that while important, the SDGs aren’t necessarily the best measure of success either. He, instead, challenges us to understand a different kind of impact this work can have—the transformation within ourselves.

Achieving impact through the everyone a changemaker revolution

Founder of Ashoka—and the individual credited with the advent of the term social entrepreneur—explains that for the income distribution gap to close, not widen, we must be building cultures of everyone a changemaker in schools, corporations, universities and organizations.

Getting into the Million Lives Club

Elson introduces us to the Million Lives Club, a new partnership among leading development organizations to recognise—and learn from—those businesses who are successfully scaling to improve the lives of those living on less than $5 a day.

A new twist on an old story: renewed hope for impact from large companies

According to Harrison, there are not enough examples of large companies implementing success business models that serve the poor. Thankfully, there are efforts underway to identify how MNCs can more effectively scale successful pilots and have a greater impact in serving the poor.

Flipping the script on impact measurement

We are living in the time of a technology revolution, with businesses utilising data to better know and serve their customers. Social businesses have largely been untouched by the power of data to make a bigger impact—until now.

An Impact Story: Results in Plain Sight

Rodriguez shares several success stories from the Securing Water for Food programme, the combination of which speaks to the programme’s impact. From increased crop yields to improved standards of living, the innovators in this programme asked the “what if” questions.

Business fundamentals drive impact for social businesses

Colloff has seen businesses measure their impact well, while others drown in the data. To have a social impact, a business needs to be viable, not to mention thriving in order to scale that impact. So, what’s in the secret sauce of impact measurement?

In Your Words

Illustrations of Gamze Cizreli, Ricardo Oteros, Justine Humbert, and Fahad Awadh

Next Steps for Entrepreneurs on Evidence of Impact

Are you unsure about the right tool for measuring your impact? We have put together a collection of different impact measurement tools to help you find the one that fits your business best.