Measuring Social Impact - Blog

Making Sense of Social Impact in Action: The Value of Educating Our Youth

At Acumen, one of the most common questions we get is how we measure social impact. Our newest +Acumen course – Making Sense of Social Impact: Acumen’s Building Blocks for Impact Analysis. – will provide an entry point for how to think about impact and we’ll share frameworks that help us define what to measure and why. Makoto Matsuura, founder of cobon a not-for-profit focused on youth education in Jakarta, Indonesia and Osaka, Japan, took a pilot version of this course and shared his reflections with us.

I joined this course thinking I already understood the framework for measuring social impact, but the course materials and the discussions with my course group really challenged my thinking.

The structure of the course fostered an open forum to share different perspectives with my team. I used some of those insights to construct a more focused version of my organization’s ideal outcomes and changed the way we look at the impact of our work. Gaining a tangible way to consider the positive impact of our work – that was definitely my biggest takeaway.

The cases in the +Acumen course focused on organizations from developing countries or organizations with tangible products for which quantitative data was relatively easier to capture compared to the nature of my work; but being exposed to these examples pushed my group to think more critically about quantifying the ways our work in the field of education impacts an individual’s emotional, cognitive, and psychological states; and the potential impact to that person’s long-term well-being in society.

Since the course ended I have found myself reflecting deeply on the questions “How can we better understand our impact?” and “What does it mean to measure our impact?”

I see a potential challenge because the courses are only offered in English. The language barrier could create some issues in spreading these ideas in our country; but it will be a huge loss if many leaders in our country fail to be a part of the +Acumen courses because of this. I strongly hope that +Acumen activities, including support from Tokyo+Acumen and Osaka+Acumen continue to provide effective tools for the Japanese social sector.

After the course, I was eager to share my discoveries from the +Acumen course with two of my community members who each run their own not-for-profits. Otona-no-senaka (roughly “Role Models” in English) hosts workshops for diversity education, self-awareness, empathy toward others. HanaLabs provides development programs for female college students that focus on change agents and social good.

Both organizations were facing the challenge of measuring their social impact due to the nature of their programs. Their feedback mirrored my own and we believe that leaders in social enterprises in Japan could leverage this course to engage their stakeholders and build their capacity as an organization in their own way, to further enhance the way they do good.

The next session for Making Sense of Social Impact: Acumen’s Building Blocks for Impact Analysis will begin in May. Check out the course and registration information here


New Study By Acumen and Bain & Company Unveils How To Scale Adoption Of Agricultural Innovations

Acumen and Bain & Company today released Growing Prosperity: Developing Repeatable Models® to Scale the Adoption of Agricultural Innovations—a new report to help entrepreneurial companies, and others, unlock the potential of smallholder farmers through large-scale adoption of agricultural innovations and inputs. The report’s insights and findings—which are the result of interviews with more than 300 smallholder farmers, sector experts and pioneer firm management—demonstrate the transformative power of providing smallholder farmers with the right access to the right innovations at the right time. In parallel, the report addresses why very few pioneer firms have been able to achieve the scale needed to provide smallholder farmers with access to agricultural products and services that have the potential to increase their yields and pull them out of poverty. [Read More]

Why India’s Economic Growth Depends on Vocational Training

India has an enormous population of young people – over half of the 1.2 billion people are younger than 25 years old. Yet, only 2% of its 500 million person workforce has any skills or training. The majority work in the informal sector (90%), where there are few opportunities for education other than what workers ‘pick up’ on the job. This reality limits overall productivity, as well as upward mobility. [Read More]

Letter from Jacqueline: My Week in Ghana

I am writing on a return flight from Ghana. The country has not seen a single case of Ebola, yet the impact of fear is profound. As travelers enter the country, attendants screen for high temperatures. Hand sanitizer dispensers are omnipresent. Hotels and conferences have seen massive cancellations. Everywhere are constant reminders of our fragility and the strength of our connectedness. [Read More]

Six online courses we’re taking this year

+Acumen’s free online courses are a great way to learn tools that will help you develop both professionally and personally. Whether you are a social entrepreneur who wants to market to your customers or a young professional that wants to strengthen your leadership skills, we are offering six courses this Fall that will help you develop the tools, knowledge, and networks to change the way the world tackles poverty. [Read More]

Four Emerging Leaders Building the Future of Pakistan

With 60% of Pakistan’s population living under less than a dollar a day, the external narrative of Pakistan is characterised by what the country lacks; a lack of security, a lack of women’s rights, a lack of access to education, and the list goes on. What this narrative ignores are the individuals who work tirelessly to plug those gaps. From human rights to education to food security, Acumen Pakistan Fellows are affecting change through organizations committed to tackling poverty. Their work is truly inspiring, promising a hopeful future for Pakistan. Here are four fellows that are building this future for Pakistan and come together periodically to share learning experiences and grow as leaders. Through five seminars, the fellows have strengthened skills of adaptability, communication, empathy and problem solving through listening. If you are committed to creating change in your community, apply now to be an Acumen Pakistan Fellow. The deadline is 29 September. [Read More]

Acumen Partners with AlphaSights to Better Access Global Expertise

In our work investing in social enterprises that deliver critical goods to the poor, there is a substantial amount of work to evaluate each investment opportunity. A critical part of the diligence process, particularly when it comes to emerging markets, is speaking with industry experts who can provide reliable information about sector trends, market dynamics and public policy – all of which affect our evaluation of potential investment opportunities. [Read More]


Our manifesto begins, “it starts by standing with the poor.” Yet for good reasons, the sector has found it challenging to measure which customers are actually being served through social impact investments – getting accurate data on incomes is notoriously difficult and the logistical challenge and cost of conducting surveys in person prohibitive. [Read More]