A few times a year, I take advantage of online courses available on edX. I just began a new one: “Making Sense Of Social Impact: Acumen’s Building Blocks For Impact Analysis” which may be a little heavy on company promotion but is still helpful to learn more about linking non-financial impacts to the usual $ ones, ultimately encouraging more investment and partnerships for non-traditional initiatives.
One of the helpful documents* used in the course so far is below and of course I thought of the FMPP/LFPP grantees who call me in frustration when attempting to create a logic model for their proposal. Simply put, a logic model offers an “if such and such resource is used to do such and such, these will be the results, both directly and indirectly” outline to those assessing what is being proposed:
|what resources go into a program||what activities the program undertakes||what is produced through those activities||the changes or benefits that result from the program|
What is also helpful in the Acumen graphic below is that you can see how you will measure inputs internally and then measure the “customers” (stakeholders) for the rest. In other words, Market A uses these resources and staff time (input) to create this many events and materials (output), resulting in # of attendees taking # materials, which also added # of potential new shoppers to the market db (outcomes). Vendors reported they saw new shoppers who were knowledgeable on those issues; also, local media reported on the market as an educational resource for those searching for info on healthy food in this period (impact).
Impact is the one area I find markets struggle with the most; one of the best ways to decide what impact to choose for your project is to look at the market’s mission or vision statement and use those. Or ask your project partners to offer a single impact that they are hoping to see: for SNAP projects, often stakeholders goal is for increased access to healthy foods among their client base or added business stability among market vendors from adding regular shoppers. At a network level, increased collaboration is an important impact.
When markets are still stymied by this process, I suggest they start on the right with the impacts and work their way back to inputs, step-by-step, rather than starting there.This may also help another problem I often notice which is too many inputs proposed for relatively simple projects. After all, the goal of most funders is to see longterm impact within the market or a system level impact, not to see dozens of activities that result in little effect so it’s important to keep going back to the impacts.
Lastly, funding should be used strategically whenever possible (are there other supporters who are offering volunteers or resources that can be listed as in-kind?), resulting in a clear plan with room to alter it as lessons are learned or the situation changes.
I also recommend that folks take a look at Whole Measures framework to find descriptive and inclusive levels of impacts for food systems.
*Because they use Creative Commons licensing, their materials are available to share once credited as long as adaptations are not made or the share is for non-commercial use.