Unpacking Impact: Exploring Impact Measurement for Social Enterprises in Ontario

Mowat Centre

Author +
Lisa Lalande, Joanne Cave, Rajesh Sankat

Year: 2016

With support from the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Growth (MEDG), Mowat NFP developed this report to examine the concept of common impact measurement frameworks and standardization globally, and identify specific opportunities to strengthen impact measurement practices for the social enterprise ecosystem in Ontario.

Today, there are estimated to be more than 10,000 social enterprises across the province, employing over 160,000 people serving over 3.4 million customers and making a substantial contribution to the provincial economy. Although the potential for their growth is significant, measuring the social impact of social enterprises is a persistent challenge. Not only is it difficult to distill social impact to a set of ‘neatly communicated simple metrics’, but there is also no common, proven method, code of practice, or core model to follow.

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In June 2016, the Government of Ontario launched a new five-year Social Enterprise Strategy designed to support social enterprises to grow, enter new markets and create jobs while also addressing complex social and environmental challenges. The strategy included the creation of a new Impact Measurement Task Force to explore uniform impact measurement standards for social enterprises.

This report:

  • Provides context on the issue of impact measurement for social enterprises in Ontario and distills the challenges into key themes.
  • Identifies leading impact measurement practices for social enterprises globally.
  • Provides recommendations on a way forward for all actors in the social enterprise ecosystem.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction
2 Framing the Issue: Defining the Challenges

The Social Enterprise Ecosystem in Ontario
The Definition of Impact and Impact Measurement
The State of Impact Measurement for Social
Enterprises in Ontario
3 Identifying Leading Practices from
Around the World
In the Pursuit of a Gold Standard: One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Finding Common Ground Through Common Practice
4 Conditions for Success
The Role of Data and Technology
Finance and Funding
5 The Way Forward: Where Can Ontario Start?
6 Areas of Further Research

Appendix A: Glossary
Appendix B: Social Enterprise Ecosystem in Ontario
Appendix C: Local Case Studies – Examples from the Field
Appendix D: Overview of Impact Measurement Methods
Appendix E: Performance Management Frameworks
Appendix F: June 2016 Pre-Forum Participants
Appendix G: June 2016 Forum Speakers & Facilitators
Works Cited