Creative metrics for diverse portfolios

Carlin Carr, Bangalore Community Manager
Bangalore, 14 October 2015

Funders often support many different types of social impact organizations — from NGOs and human rights campaigns to market-based solutions and clean water supply efforts. The diverse range of investments can make understanding and following organizational impact difficult. Funding organizations such as the Grassroots Business Fund (GBF) have had develop metrics to meet their portfolio. These impact assessment programs have helped GBF better invest into successful ideas, but as importantly, have helped investees to understand what’s working and what needs to be altered quickly. The approach has paid off on both ends.

The Grassroots Business Fund is a multi-million dollar fund that invests in social enterprises that generate sustainable earnings and savings for the poor. With a focus on market-based solutions within poverty-stricken communities, GBF carefully selects its investees and then applies a rigorous impact assessment to track each recipient’s measurable outcomes. GBF’s approach is multi-dimensional: to assess current impact by collecting self-reported metrics, to use surveys to confirm the timeline and efficacy of that impact, and to generate economic value calculations to assess long-term impact potential.

One GBF success story is Industree Crafts, an artisanal enterprise based in Bangalore that has grown to become one of India’s best-known social enterprises. Industree‘s multi-retail brand, Mother Earth, offers the new producer-entrepreneur with a direct market platform to the Indian retail market, increasing business, sales and marketing opportunities. These products are sold at their boutiques in Bangalore, Mysore, Kolkata, and Mumbai, as well as through various export channels like Ikea and TJ Maxx.

GBF plays a key role in supporting Industree’s sustainable growth through finance consultation, monthly tracking tools, and reporting dashboards — mechanisms that prioritize feedback, accountability, and measurements that propel action. Since GBF’s involvement, Industree has increased sales and margins by passing along benefits to its customers in the form of lower prices, improved inventory management, increased store-in-store shops and export sales. This dynamic measurement—combined with surveys and consultations—has meant the ability to shift priorities to where they need to be moment to moment, animating the idea that success can often hinge on how fast you can react with resources when and where they are needed.

As more and more funding organization like GBF recognize the impact that their investments can make, they are simultaneously realizing the need to track that investment in new and creative ways. Integrating tools that measure different dimensions allows organizations and funders to be more nimble and track where attention could be immediately shifted to—moves that could have massive ripple effects on a community’s future.

Photo credit: Bobinson K B

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