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

By Acumen on April 04, 2014

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

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