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Defining Impact

I am currently compiling a list of ten international development organizations that have had a significant impact in the work they do.  While working on this list, I have identified one main challenge; no one seems to be able to define “significant impact”?

 Organizations can tell me how many wells they’ve built, women’s empowerment workshops they’ve held, and children they’ve fed, but how can one compare? Does one fed child equal two wells?  Perhaps since wells impact more people, it should be five fed children equals one well?  And the well is sustainable, a food handout is not, doe this make El Porvenir a better organization than Feed the Children?  Organizations such as charitywatch are having a hard time comparing as well, relying solely on financials (which seem to be the only objective data available).  A common unit would have to be used in order to measure one organization against another- and preferably a unit measuring “impact”.  Population Services International has done just that – they’ve mathematically formulated a unit of impact equal to one additional year of productive life for one person, and measure their impact in these units.  Genius!  Now if only all the other organizations I’m summarizing could do the same…

By Carrie Keith, Philanthropiece Office Intern