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Measuring the Impact of International Partnerships

By Susan Carey Dempsey on April 28, 2010No Comment

As the keynote speaker at a conference on partnerships convened at the UN, Jason Saul paid respect to the recent emphasis on measurement and outcomes. But in seeking to solve social problems, he stressed, businesses collaborating with NGO’s and government agencies should re-focus their strategies away from the previous social contract model to a new social capital market approach.

 Saul, who heads the firm Mission Measurement LLC, set several challenges for his audience of NGO execs, corporate and government leaders, calling on them to re-engineer how corporations look at social change, and at the same time, to re-cast nonprofits’ view of corporations. “ We should seek and catalog,” he said new models for partnership that are innovative, create value and define a new anatomy of partnerships.”

 While the conference, convened by the UN Office of Partnerships and The Resource Foundation, was nominally geared to partnerships in the Caribbean and Latin America, participants brought examples of public-private-nonprofit collaborations from all corners of the globe. Several speakers illustrated their points with charts detailed impressive, measurable outcomes. With businesses needing documentation that their social investments are producing impact, outcomes measurement is the clarion call from funders and nonprofits alike. Yet the pressure to succeed and to have quantifiable results was viewed with a critical eye by speaker Susan Raymond, who heads the Evaluation and Strategic Planning office of philanthropic consulting firm Changing Our World. “My fear,” Dr. Raymond said, “is that this emphasis will drive us away from risk. If we focus solely on impact, will we only invest where there is no risk?”

 Dr. Raymond pleaded the case for one of her favorite concepts, the 10% rule. “I would like funders to set aside 10% of their grantmaking to invest in things you can’t understand, root causes of issues that are complex and challenging. The philanthropic dollar is unique in its ability to invest in this area.”  Citing such imponderables as religious intolerance and terrorism, Raymond warned that failing to take the risk of pursuing such research could lead thorny issues such as these to fester, ultimately producing surprises “that are never good.”

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