A new thought leadership paper from JBWere calls for a frank and fearless assessment of impact in the social sector.
Head of Philanthropic Services, Shamal Dass, explains: “Impact is what matters at the end of each day—the activity undertaken and the outputs delivered are irrelevant if they do not create lasting impact for our beneficiaries—it is simply wasted money, time and energy.”
The launch of the report, Leadership Insights: Scaling for Transformative Impact, coincides with a visit next month by Harvard Professor Kash Rangan as part of JBWere’s Social Leadership Program, which includes a panel discussion on the role of funders in creating transformative impact.
Following is an extract from Leadership Insights: Scaling for Transformative Impact, written by Shamal Dass.
Successful scaling is difficult. It is not an easy process. It requires a pragmatic and enabling leadership approach, sufficient resources, careful planning and a robust measurement and assessment framework.
First and foremost, you must be convinced that the intervention or program you wish to scale has a robust evidence base that supports a strong theory of change, which links the program inputs to the outcomes.
Professor Kash Rangan warns that scaling before you are ready carries significant risk, not just to your organisation but for your beneficiaries. Importantly, your stakeholders, especially funders, need to be committed to the scaling process—ensuring that there is a shared understanding of purpose, sustained commitment and support to ensure the intervention is scaled in an appropriate manner and evaluated for continual improvement.
If scaling is clearly an appropriate strategy for an intervention, then the board must understand and consider all of the scaling options so it can select the one that suits that organisation.
An important distinction between the for-profit and for-purpose sector is evident here—impact is about changes to society, not about your organisation. For instance, a proven effective way of scaling is allowing your ideas to be copied and adapted to different settings by other organisations (i.e. scaling through knowledge transfer)—just because something needs to be done at a large scale, doesn’t mean the same organisation has to do it all!
Whether you work in the for-purpose sector, or fund the sector, what gets us all out of bed in the morning is the drive to have a lasting positive impact for those we seek to serve.
What I have tried to articulate in this paper is that we often let ourselves down in the execution. Goodwill and trying to do the right thing are simply not enough. If we are to create transformative impact at scale then we all have to dedicate and apply effectively our time, talent and treasure.
To that end, the challenge for leaders of for-purpose organisations, particularly board directors, is to do more than passively watch their organisations meander in mediocrity.
It is time to deeply engage and understand your purpose, your organisation, your sector, the data, and the landscape. Then ask yourself the hard questions about what real impact you are having for all the money, time and effort being expended. And if you conclude that you are not having transformative impact at scale, then you need to think about how you are going to do so – this may not strictly be your fiduciary responsibility, but it is most certainly your moral obligation.
The challenge for funders is to consider what their own roles are in creating impact at scale. It is easy, for instance, to lament the lack of collaboration amongst organisations on a cause area – but how many funders collaborate in funding initiatives?
We argue that the philanthropic dollar especially is the true risk capital for the sector – in that it can take risks. Yes, philanthropy can and should fund innovation, but as highlighted, simply funding innovation without any regard for the funding model for the scaling that will create the actual impact is counterintuitive and ultimately futile. We conclude that all funders must add capacity funding to their arsenal to truly deliver transformative impact at scale.
Learn more about JBWere Philanthropic Services here.