2018 Impact Lab: Measuring, Sustaining, and Scaling Impact


Philanthropy in Motion’s Impact Lab wrapped up this past Friday, capping an exhilarating six weeks of in-depth discussion and exploration of China’s social  innovation space. The month and a half-long course engaged 25 students from Yenching Academy and other schools in Peking University through expert-led seminars and hands-on training in venture philanthropy, due diligence, and other skillsets for social change. 


Throughout the Impact Lab, participants learned frameworks and techniques for evaluating social sector organizations, including perspectives from NGO and social enterprise leaders as well as representatives from major foundations.

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Session 2 featured Erika Chen and Gu Rui  from Better Partners Social Enterprise Consulting, both leading experts on non-profit organization (NPO) assessment in China. They shared tips and tricks on evaluating a NPO’s financial sustainability, competitive market, impact indicators, and much more.


Meanwhile, Session 3 dove deeper into theories of change and measuring impact at the organizational level. Dr. Chan Yu, Deputy Program Director of the University of Hong Kong’s Master of Social Sciences in Nonprofit Management, pushed students to visualize how  their collective grant-making would impact organizations two or three years down the road. What kinds of progress would students want to see?

“This session with Dr. Chan Yu, was a unique experience to learn about social impact assessment through a framework with methodology. It not only was very useful for us to conduct effectively our due diligence on social enterprises, but personally, revealed a field of activity in which I want to be involved more in-depth.”

Antonio Quiroz (Peking University, Mexico)


Dr. Chan shared a few key points to consider when assessing grants:

  • Measure the raw amount of money being donated to a granteeDoes it meet, exceed, or fall short of your target amount?

  • Measure how the money is spentDoes X amount  go toward Y part of the grantee’s operations?

  • Adopt a longitudinal approach when possibleAssess outcomes before a grant is made and measure them again in regular time intervals after the grant is made. Did the outcomes improve in meaningful ways?


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Session 4 broadened students’ knowledge with an all-star panel. PIM Program Manager Meg Rudy sat down with Katherine Wilhelm, Program Officer at the Ford Foundation’s Beijing office; Ji Hongbo, China Country Representative for the Asia Foundation; and Jingjing Chen, Director of Investor Relations, Global Communications, and CSR for the Chinese bike-sharing titan, ofo.

The three speakers drew from their combined legal, media, management, and private sector experiences to address two key aspects of philanthropy:

  • Building effective partnerships

  • Managing risk (financial, capacity, public relations, etc.)

“I really enjoyed the panel because we got to hear from speakers in prominent organizations working for social good, and could learn from their experiences as we strive to support the smaller organizations that are part of Impact Lab. It was also useful to hear from the panelists from a professional standpoint, as I am considering my career options for further down the line.”

Emily Finkelstine (Yenching Academy, United States)


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Ms. Wilhelm and Ms. Ji spoke to the differences in how endowed and non-endowed foundations operate, the power dynamics arising from a donor-recipient relationship, and the most effective ways to assess risk when grantee organizations may be struggling. Speaking from the private sector, Ms. Chen spoke about ofo’s pursuit of “shared value” as the company builds partnerships with NGOs in other countries.

 

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Equipped with new skills and perspectives, students began working together in teams of five to conduct due diligence on their partner organizations. Teams interviewed staff at Yibao (micro-insurance), Xixi Garden (sex education for migrant children), Easy Inclusion (disability advocacy and employment), MyH2O (water quality testing in rural China), and Beijing Farmer’s Market (a sales platform for local farmers) to understand the organizations’ missions, operations, challenges, and opportunities.

 

During the penultimate session, teams showcased their organizations through due diligence presentations. Each team described their organization’s funding needs and answered questions about its impact. Students rated each organization using the components of PIM’s RAISE framework—Relevance, Accountability, Impact, Sustainability, Execution—as well as funding risks and the organization’s fit with the Impact Lab’s mission of reducing inequality in China.

“It was exciting to meet the leaders of Xixi Garden, which focuses on a cause I care about. It was also a great learning experience to evaluate the organization’s strategy and impact using the skills and perspectives various speakers introduced to us in the workshops. During the process, I got to think about the potential conflict between doing pioneering yet risky work and managing risks in order to be sustainable, as well as possible ways to balance the two.”

Kaixin Fan (Peking University, China)


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For the last session, Impact Lab participants came together for a full afternoon of deliberations in order to decide the shape of the ultimate grant. Students made an important shift in roles from advocates of their partner organizations to neutral arbitrators representing a larger philanthropic committee, with the aim of fundraising for a single organization.


After reviewing each organization’s average scores from the previous session, students discussed the organizations’ strengths, weaknesses, and need for funds. PIM’s External Resources Director, Ashwin Kaja, facilitated the 3-hour conversation and guided the group towards a majority decision about which organization to support.

“The deliberation was very clear and informative because everyone tried to estimate advantages and disadvantages of each organization. It was helpful hearing a range of people’s opinions and concerns. We narrowed down to two organizations, weighing “Impact”  against “Sustainability” and trying to figure out which would benefit most from a PIM grant.”

Anastasiia Matros (Yenching Academy, Russia)

A close final vote by the committee revealed Easy Inclusion as this year’s Impact Lab grant recipient! The students then regrouped into a larger team aiming to raise a 25,000+ RMB grant for Easy Inclusion on Chuffed, a crowdfunding site for social causes. (Last year, the Impact Lab raised 20,000+ RMB for Smart Air, a social enterprise that sells low-cost and high-impact air filters as an affordable solution to indoor pollution.)


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Capping off the session was Andrew Shirman, social entrepreneur and founder of Education in Sight and Mantra. He ran a fast-paced storytelling workshop to help participants craft compelling narratives for their crowd funding campaign.

In ninety minutes, small groups not only brainstormed story arcs and social media posts for Easy Inclusion, but also learned the core elements of effective crowdfunding, including:

  • Landing page content and design

  • Pitch video

  • Outreach and promotion

  • Rewards and wrap-up

  • Launching an online campaign is only 10%  of the work90%  is preparation!


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Collective grant-making promises to be a step forward for the students’ efforts to create social change. Most importantly, their venture philanthropy will fund the expansion of Easy Inclusion’s Talent Accelerator Program, which aims to train and place marginalized individuals with disabilities into internships at Beijing-based companies.


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Philanthropy in Motion


Philanthropy in Motion (PIM) is an internationally-recognized social enterprise that empowers millennials with the funding, training, and networks to become mission-driven leaders and amplify their social impact. We guide individuals through a comprehensive process of identifying their missions, investigating social issues, and leveraging collective resources to advance social innovation in Greater China. Combining world class curricula with an experiential learning approach, our education programs have empowered hundreds of young people to take a strategic, venture capital model to philanthropy, deciding how to best allocate funding and resources to impactful social ventures. Our partners include of World Bank to Peking University, and we have been recognized by Forbes, The Economist, and other news media for our work in the social impact space.


Written by Carl Hooks (2017 Yenching Scholar)