Social Impact Assessment Guidelines


The Social Impact Assessment is a framework for catalyzing transformational change by empowering entrants to re-think how their business model can address root causes of systemic social challenges.

There are three steps to the Social Impact Assessment.

1) Define

Describe the venture’s Theory of Change and Impact Value Chain by answering the following four questions within the social impact component of your executive summary:

  1. What is the challenge you are trying to solve?
  2. Why is this challenge important?
  3. How do you intend to solve this challenge?
  4. What is your vision for the future beyond solving the immediate challenge?

These are listed in the Approach to Social Impact Summary, which can be used as guidance to help you answer the questions. Please explain how the venture’s activities will lead to the ultimate desired outcomes.

2) Quantify

This is a Semifinals requirement only.

Select one to two social impact metrics that are closely aligned with your mission and represent at a high level what impact you are trying to achieve. Then you may select a handful of sub-metrics, preferably from IRIS, as you feel appropriate to achieve any of the following four purposes:

  • Serve as a proxy for impact when the intended outcome is hard to measure. This may be the case when the impact is immeasurable in nature (e.g. religious organizations), when the impact will only be known after a long time (e.g. education interventions), or when it is unethical to measure impact (e.g. it is unethical to offer shelter to certain battered women but not to others for the sake of measuring the impact of your battered women’s shelter).
  • Highlight how you will achieve your ultimate goal. The one to two higher level metrics you select demonstrate what impact you are hoping to achieve, and the sub-metrics can outline how you plan to achieve that impact and help you assess whether you are on track.
  • Track undesired outcomes. It is important for you to keep in mind not only your desired target population and outcome, but the broader environment and community as well. For example, an organization might be successfully increasing farmers’ incomes but if the farmers are achieving this through deforestation or unethical labour practices, the intervention might actually be damaging communities more than it is helping. Metrics can be used to identify undesired outcomes and ensure that these are kept in consideration to ensure the organization is complying with best practises.
  • Improve operations. There is a clear contrast between social impact metrics that are aimed at proving impact versus those that are intended to help an organization learn and adapt its program. It is important to establish some metrics that serve as a feedback loop to guide future changes.

Please note that while IRIS metrics are increasingly the industry standard and we recommend utilizing them wherever possible, these metrics may not meet the needs for every business model. If you are not able to find IRIS metrics that meet your needs, it is more important to choose metrics that are reflective of your business model than to use IRIS.

3) Track

Explain how the chosen indicators will be tracked as part of the venture’s ongoing business operations. This is a critical component in ensuring that you are making data-driven decisions. Outline a feasible plan for impact evaluation, including ongoing monitoring of unintended and/or negative consequences of the business. You may wish to refer to Supplemental Guidelines: Lean Data Collection if you’d like to leverage lean principles in your tracking strategy.

Please note that Questions 2 and 3 may influence one another. As you are thinking through your collection and tracking strategy, you may realize that certain metrics are less pragmatic to collect and it may lead you to revise Question 2 to ensure you’re only including metrics that require data that is reasonable to capture.