Social impact is a hot topic in business education. Increasingly, educators at some of the top business schools around the world are offering curricula focused on social entrepreneurship and social innovation.
The same logic driving the development and refinement of this kind of courses at business schools can inform ongoing professional development as well.
Social Impact Training for Existing Organizations
Social impact training is highly beneficial for existing businesses as well, especially organizations already pursuing social entrepreneurial goals. Social enterprise organizations often depend on investments that are contingent upon the organization’s ability to measure, analyze and report on the social impact their work is having.
By the nature of the work you do and the mission you serve, your organization most likely is already creating social change. But measuring the impact of that change in ways that meet industry standards and stakeholder expectations is another matter altogether. This is where specialized and targeted training can help.
Global social entrepreneurship, which emerged over the past twenty years or so as a middle way between traditional corporate models and less effective or problematic charitable models, has been widely studied. The data and analysis generated by this research, informing social impact training courses, had yielded methods and procedures to help you verify the positive social impact your organization is having. And global social impact theories can be adapted and adopted by smaller organizations as well, whose reach may be smaller but whose impact can be just as meaningful. This is where training can help social impact leaders tailor theoretical approaches to the specific missions of their organizations.
Common Objectives and Outcomes
Although all social impact courses are going to be slightly different, there are some common objectives which you can familiarize yourself with, so that you can make a good decision about what kind of social impact training is right for you and your organization.
- Evidence: all social impact training programs focus on data. Identifying stakeholders, deliverables and outcomes are only one aspect of the process. Developing an evidence collection practice is another important goal of social impact training. Mission, planning and target outcomes help define parameters.
- Analysis: Once you have collected data, you need to be able to make sense of what that data is telling you. Here again, mission, planning and outcomes provide interpretative frameworks for collected data. Many social impact training courses will also provide instruction on developing a theory of change and help you make sense of various methodologies of social valuation. These theoretical and methodological approaches help you interpret and explain your data in more nuanced and more precise ways.
- Reporting: Out of a thorough analysis, stories emerge about the degree and scope of impact. These stories, supported by data and analysis, drive decision making on various levels, including funding and resource allocation. Many social impact courses will help you translate data into the kind of meaningful narratives that yield results.
Depending on the mission or area of expertise of the organization offering the training, each social impact course may focus on, and refine, aspects of these three basic concepts. When deciding whether a particular course is right for you and your organization, consider a few things:
- Stage of development: being realistic about where your organization presently stands in its development can help you decide the degree of specificity and focus needed from a social impact training course.
- Complexity of reporting streams: your data collection and analytical processes should be defined partly by the end-users of whatever reporting is generated. The more sophisticated an end-user’s expectations, the more sophisticated your social impact measurement needs to be. Find a course that matches the degree of sophistication you need from your end result.
Leaders of social entrepreneurship organizations can also gain a lot from social impact courses, which often incorporate leadership development into their outcomes and objectives.
Learning the Language of Social Entrepreneurship
Another benefit to social impact training is the vocabulary it imparts. Becoming conversant in the lexicon of social impact is crucial for social entrepreneurs. Just as other sectors of the business world have their own jargon, social entrepreneurship is no different. The more comfortable you are speaking the language of social entrepreneurship and social enterprise, the more successful your organization is likely to be.
So, if you are not quite certain what is meant by social return on investment (SROI), theories of change, impact mapping or social valuation methodologies, then a social impact training course might be the perfect way to solidify and grow your social entrepreneurial vocabulary.
If you are new to social entrepreneurship, gaining a solid foundation in the lexicon of social enterprise can benefit the early stage planning your organization will be doing. You might benefit from a kind of reverse engineering. By looking at how social impact is measured and reported, you can consider how you want to create social impact, or have your organization’s mission contribute to an existing social impact movement.
Remember, investment returns and positive social impact are increasingly complementary practices. If you are a social enterprise leader in your community, or if you are looking to start a social enterprise, consider undertaking impact training. With a little research, you will find a course that meets your needs and your budget. And the free social entrepreneurship courses we offer include social impact training.