SIAA Canada Launch

by Greg Thomson, Charity Intelligence Canada

SIAA Canada officially launched on Friday, September 13 with its first event, a day of presentations and discussions at the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto’s Annex, covering different aspects of our joint interest in social impact analysis. Personally, I was very happy to see people coming together from a wide range of organizations – operating charities, granting foundations, numerous different government agencies, and a variety of impact analysis intermediaries – to explore what it means to measure impact.

For the first event of our new association, I was impressed by the range of issues that we dove into. We discussed pros and cons of standardized metrics, the differences between measurement, estimation, and analysis, and touched on various different evaluation methodologies. As one participant noted, it is amazing what happens when a group of like-minded people come together speaking a common language.

The day started with a couple of presentations to get us thinking. First we had Viola Dessanti from the Ontario Trillium Foundation discussing the challenges that they have assessing the impact of their investments in communities across Ontario. She kicked off the day perfectly with questions such as “what is impact?” and “why does it matter?”

This was followed by a very thought-provoking talk by Kate Ruff who is working on her PhD in Social Results Reporting at the Schulich School of Business. Kate made us all aware that instead of having to deal with just the issue of impact analysis, we need to wrestle with multiple issues under the guise of measurement, observation, estimation, analysis, and disclosure. I am looking forward to delving into each of these issues.

Our panel discussion on how government is engaging in impact analysis included Tina Walter from Employment & Social Development Canada and Helen Burstyn from the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade, & Employment.  This was a wonderful view into how a couple of different levels of government are dealing with issues such as standards, determining results, and the role of government in all of these issues.  Consensus seemed to be that government should help to convene and enable – certainly a great place to start.

The afternoon included five mini sessions with participants moving from table to table discussing various topics during the “hotspot sessions”. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about Social Return on Investment from Anne Miller of SiMPACT Strategies Group, differences between common business and social metrics from Paul Bakker of Social Impact Squared, and investors’ priorities and challenges with impact measurement from Hilary Best and Karim Harji of Purpose Capital. The two hotspots I will have to follow up on were Saim Siddiqui of Social Asset Measurements talking about the role of software in enabling measurement, and Stephane Gascon from Employment & Social Development Canada discussing social impact research at the federal level.

Our final discussion was a brainstorming on the future of SIAA Canada with participants giving their thoughts on how we move forward and what we focus on.  Many comments were raised on the topic of ensuring that we are truly a national organization, as well as providing opportunities to discuss in more detail the many topics that arose during the day.

Many thanks to Anshula Chowdhury and the team at Social Asset Measurements who hosted a wonderful event which gave me great promise that SIAA Canada itself will have impact.

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