Making Judgments to Make Good

The logic is simple: (1) society has limited money, time, and ecological capacity; (2) to confront the great challenges of our time—climate change, economic insecurity, poverty—we have to be smart about allocating those resources; (3) resource allocation is driven by our decisions as humans; (4) good decisions are guided by good information; and (5) someone has to gather the information and make it useful.

The Social Impact Analysts Association was born out of this logic. For nonprofits to squeeze as much good as possible—jobs created, people healed, acres saved—out of their limited resources they need to understand their proven and potential impact. For donors to maximize the good of their scarce dollars, they need to understand the once and future impact of potential grantees. The need for good analysis is undeniable.

Also undeniable is the difficulty of doing good analysis of social impact. Attempts to tie an organization’s work to lasting impact can result in a tangle of misaligned timelines, confused attribution, and imperfect data. But we must try. Imperfect data humbly applied is better than no data at all.

Impact analysis is not yet a recognized job; you are sure to get quizzical looks at a cocktail party if you describe yourself as an “impact analyst.” SIAA is tackling the not-insignificant challenge of turning a fuzzy need into a profession. Being a part of a recognized profession does not guarantee competence (cf. “mortgage broker”) but may be a step in the right direction. Those who have dedicated their lives to analyzing impact deserve the support of a community that can help them get better at a hard, important job. Let’s hope SIAA provides just that community.

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