The overall socio-economic health of Africa has continued to deteriorate, and Nigeria is not excluded from this trend. Driven by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 global pandemic, growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is predicted to fall to -3.3 per cent in 2020, pushing the region into its first recession in 25 years, according to the World Bank. The pandemic could also drive up to 40 million people into extreme poverty in Africa in 2020, erasing at least five years of progress in fighting poverty. As a result, the rapid rate of population growth and the pressure of urbanization and rural emigration, the decay in educational and health infrastructure, growing malnutrition and poverty, the worsening plight of refugees and displaced persons, and widespread unemployment and underemployment may only get worse.
Furthermore, the social sector is plagued with an ongoing challenge of impact measurement to ascertain the level of impact from the social interventions delivered. Organizations involved in international development are operating in an unprecedented environment of greater expectations for the effectiveness and impact of social efforts. This major shift is affecting the full array of players—development agencies, NGOs, aid-recipient governments, philanthropic foundations, and the private sector. Therefore, the understanding of ‘Social Impact’ is critical in the social sector growth and it has become a growing requirement for all social sector stakeholders to understand and adopt.
What exactly is Social Impact?
Social Impact is a beneficial outcome resulting from pro-social behaviour that is enjoyed by the intended targets of that behaviour and/or by the broader community of individuals, organizations, and/or environments while Impact Measurement refers to the process of analyzing, calculating, and monitoring the changes, either positive or negative, that result from a given intervention (for example of an initiative, Programmes, project or organization).
In order to evidence social impact, the social sector must engage in impact measurement. A systematic approach to impact measurement enables the organization not only to communicate real social return to funders, investors, and beneficiaries but also helps to maintain an informed position on the actual achievements made and resource allocation for effective growth of the organization. Impact Measurement is not all about measuring alone, real impact measurement is about integrating all social stakeholder voice to understand the community, organization outcome over a long time.
Measuring social impact helps understand, manage, and communicate the social value clearly and consistently. The information can be used for several beneficial purposes, such as:
- Effective Planning of Social Programmes – This helps better understand and create a target for social Programmes to plan better, implement more effectively, and successfully bring initiatives to scale.
- Strengthening Accountability – This helps funders to see more outcomes and reports with additional financial support and build partnerships.
- Better Reporting – This helps to show social Programmes performance, understand performance and test assumptions. This also provides standardized language in outcomes reporting where all stakeholders can understand.
- Improving external positioning – This provides more clarity of the social Programmes created, better differentiate impact in relations to other states/cities and create attraction to local and foreign investors, thereby encouraging partnerships.
- Improving Decision Making – This helps to guide decisions, behaviour, and communication. This also helps to effectively manage activities, resources, and improve the internal management process.
Technology has revolutionized our lives in so many ways; the way we interact with each other, consume data and stay informed. This revolution extends into various sectors, some being ahead of others in the use of Technology. Technology plays a role in solving social and environmental challenges, and this can be seen with the rise of many social enterprises focused on innovative and cost-effective ways of solving these unfolding challenges. Although there are still gaps in how technology is used to solve social sector challenges or how to improve social delivery, the importance of technology can no longer be downplayed. One of the areas where technology can play an important role is in the area of Monitoring and Evaluation for Impact Assurance. There is so much data that can be mined from the work being done in the social space. Every day interventions are created to improve the well-being of individuals but how effective are these interventions? Are they making the desired impact? How well is Nigeria doing towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals? Can we really boast of Impact with quality data and insights? All these questions drive us to think about how we can improve impact measurement and part of the solution lies in increased knowledge, better processes, and effective tools. Technology can be leveraged as a tool to consolidate and visualize the impact of social Programmes at local, state, or national levels. Some of the benefits of technology in social impact include:
- Facilitates the collection and analysis of Big Data – Digital technology enables innovation in the gathering, collation, and analysis of data. With the amount of data generated from social Programmes, manual processes are usually very tedious and bound to have several errors. But with the use of technology, the process can be done easily and insights provided to give a picture of progress which enables strategic decision making.
- Access to Information – Technology allows for a larger audience-reach when disseminating information. This can be used to increase the visibility of the work done by organizations and pass useful information and insights based on lessons from social Programme implementation.
- Increases sustainability of social programmes – With the help of digital technology, building robust and sustainable social Programmes can be achieved. This can be seen in the efforts around Digital Information Systems for Social protection Programmes which has the potential to reduce fragmented, isolated social protection interventions, supporting a system approach to universal social protection and linking social protection recipients to other services and support. Across the Social Sector value Chain from Identification to Monitoring & Evaluation, there is a potential role technology can play to improve outcomes.
- Fundraising – Technology can be leveraged to create transparency and a process of accountability to build the trust of funders. Funders can leverage technology to track progress and see how their funds are utilized and evaluate social return on investment.