The Improve Group is launching new practice areas throughout 2017. These practice areas bring together staff from across The Improve Group to learn more about specific topics and develop deeper skills for applying evaluation and planning to these topics – ultimately enhancing our project work. This effort is also linked to our strategic plan in several ways, such as supporting staff interests and expanding our network of partners. In January, we focused on our Capacity Building Practice Area. This month we’d like to introduce you to another practice area we are developing: Market Strategies for Social Impact.
The market strategies practice area will focus on how investment, corporate sustainability efforts, HR practices, consumer activism, and other market forces can lead to positive social impact. Prior to launching the practice area, we were inspired by several threads of related work:
- In our evaluation practice, we have long worked with nonprofits (such as these anti-bullying efforts) and the public sector (such as these programs for people with disabilities) to measure social impact
- We developed evaluation strategies for corporations’ community impact work, helping them clarify the relationship between social impact and business benefit
- Our staff participated in local and national networks to share ideas about social impact measurement (e.g., the MSP Social Impact Hub; Social Value-US)
- We served as a member of the Venn Initiative, which brought together social impact investors, early stage businesses, and field experts in several deal teams; we played the role of helping the teams articulate social impacts and determine how to include those within subsequent business agreements. That work helped form the basis for the new Venn Foundation.
- We worked with a cohort of small, emerging businesses designed to have a social impact through the Benefit Corporation Cultivator Program
- And in 2016, we restructured The Improve Group around a social impact mission, incorporated as a public benefit corporation, and infused social impact strategies into all our work, from HR to facilities management to our consulting practice.
Our practice area team is launching into research to explore the emerging trends that are driving attention toward social impact, such as consumer activism; on-demand information; a heightened attention to social impact and values; and the realization that many solutions have been unable to solve wicked problems.
In the months ahead, we will share what we learn from our research in this area. In the meantime, we invite you to share your thoughts – what are your interests, struggles, and successes? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org – we look forward to engaging in further discussions!
For more information about our work in this field, check out these related articles: