Social performance and impact

Is there a difference between social performance and impact? 

At CERISE we promote social performance as an approach to more impactful organizations. But does that mean social performance is the same as impact? Not for us.

Key differences between social performance and impact

When you measure impact, the focus is on beneficiaries and attribution.  How have beneficiaries’ lives changed, and to what extent can we attribute these changes to our intervention? For example, if a rural family’s income has increased after getting a microloan from a coop, can this increase be attributed to the intervention of the coop, or something else, like an upturn in the local economy?

Because of this need for attribution, impact is hard to measure. It requires a counterfactual (a “control group” that hasn’t undergone the intervention), a lot of methodological rigor and usually quite a bit of time and money.

When we measure social performance, we look at processes. Social performance measurement is about assessing the extent to which an organization has planned for achieving its social purpose in the long term. The hypothesis is that robust management of and commitment to one’s social mission will lead to positive impact on the end-beneficiaries.

Social performance measurement is a concrete activity carried out under the direct stewardship of the organization. This is a big difference with impact measurement, which is generally done by external specialists.  Less academic and more operational, social performance measurement aims not to prove but to improve.