Measuring social impact is hard. If we want to achieve meaningful social impact, we need to acknowledge that dominant impact evaluation models are limited. The dominant models of evaluation prioritises quantifiable outcomes that poorly take into account longer term impact related to social value and transformative potential. There is often a disconnect between funders and communities because of the chain of intermediaries caught between the two constituents that are often tasked to serve different agendas. Impact evaluation was identified by practitioners in DESIAP events as a key theme and challenge in their work. This report is guided by this key question: How can impact evaluation be undertaken in a way that is centred on community-led, culturally grounded and iterative nature that typify most designing social innovation (DSI) projects? We invited 12 researchers and change-makers from Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia and The Philippines, who are designing social innovation to share their experiences and identify challenges and opportunities related to evaluating the impact of their work. This gathering aimed to explore alternative social impact evaluations that are more suited to the dynamic and complex characteristics of community-led DSI projects. This report is a summary of the three days (19-21st December 2017), beginning with an intensive 2-day workshop that led to insights and themes that were shared with the wider public on the 21st of December 2017. The report considers: 1) How designing social innovation practices shape the form and purpose of impact evaluation 2) How evaluation is embedded in designing social innovation processes 3) Questions and propositions for understanding impact evaluation. Alternative and culturally grounded evaluative practices are present if we choose to recognise them. For funders and commissioners, acknowledging evaluation as a form of learning requires a change in mindset from one of monitoring to one of support. We identify existing evaluative practices in D&SI projects, which often goes unnoticed because they differ from dominant or common models of evaluation. Highlighting and surfacing these differences is an important step forward in diversifying existing approaches. Key to undertaking effective evaluation in D&SI is to build trust among commissioners, communities and partners. This can open up discussions about how and what kind of impact could be achieved together. Adopting a culturally grounded evaluative practice enables project teams to be true to the needs of the communities they serve. For funders and commissioners, acknowledging evaluation as a form of learning requires a change in mindset from one of monitoring to one of support. It requires trust in the organisations that they fund and to co-design evaluative practices that acknowledges the transformative potential. It involves expanding evaluation methods and approaches to include a broader spectrum of informal and qualitative evaluation approaches to complement traditional outcome-driven approaches. It is also important to build an eco-system of practitioners who have strong evaluative practices to support people who want to apply a more evaluative practice to their work.
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|Published - 20 Apr 2019