We try to understand how significant an effect is in a given time period. How deep is it? How many people does it occur for? How long does it last and how quickly does it occur?

Why does this dimension matter?

We assess how much of an effect occurs – and therefore whether it is significant – by considering:

  • How deep the effect is, based on whether the effect is a big or small driver of the outcome
  • How many people the effect occurs for, based on data about the number of people experiencing the effect
  • How long the effect lasts for, based on data about the time from beginning of the effect to end of the effect
  • How quickly the effect occurs, based on data about the time it takes for a enterprise to generate its effect

We always want an effect related to an important positive outcome to be deep, to occur for many people, to last for a long time and to be quick to occur. But we cannot say that any one of those individual drivers of significance is necessarily more important than another. Some people may believe that a deep effect for few people is better than a marginal effect for many; others may think it is vice versa; others may see both as equally material. In practice, we analyse all data about the significance of an effect (how big a driver it is of an outcome, the number of people it occurs for and how long it lasts for) and make an overall judgement about whether it is impact we should manage.

What information do we need?

To understand how significant an effect is, we try to collect data on how deep it is, how many people it occurs for, how long it lasts for and how quickly it occurs.

In this section, we bring the dimensions to life through examples of how of a number of enterprises work to deliver employment outcomes for young people with different needs in different geographies. The examples are drawn from specific organisations but illustrate useful approaches for any enterprise or investor - big, small, for-profit or non-profit - managing impact across the five dimensions.

Meet Dream a Dream, an enterprise that works with young people across India who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Dream a Dream focuses on empowering young people with the knowledge, attitude and skills they need to promote positive behaviour and deal with the challenges of everyday life more effectively (using a creative life skills approach, based on the World Health Organisation’s ‘Partners in Life Skills’ training).

To understand (who) is experiencing effects, and ensure they reach the most underserved young people in India (with regard to the life skills outcomes), Dream a Dream sets up its centres in close proximity to informal settlements, and targets people in and around these communities through home visits or school/college presentations.

To understand (what) outcomes are experienced, Dream a Dream collects data on the positive and negative outcomes experienced by young people through the programme across five skills areas they understand to be most important and relevant to the goals of the young people. The full list of life skill areas (from the WHO’s Life Skills framework) were narrowed down to five based on their relevance to this group of young people through a testing process with focus groups (which consisted of the disadvantaged young people, local teachers, NGO workers, and volunteers). The five areas identified were: understanding and following instructions, managing conflict, taking initiative, overcoming difficulties and solving problems and interacting with others.

To understand (how much) of the effect is experienced, Dream a Dream developed its own observation-based ‘Dream Life Skills Assessment scale,’ which is standardised, validated and published. The scale provides a framework through which the team can understand the depth of change experienced by each participant, both in terms of how many skills areas are developed, and the degree of change within each skill area. When developing the scale, Dream a Dream created a set of benchmarks by collecting baseline data from over 1,000 disadvantaged children aged 8 to 16 years.

In terms of the breadth of the effect, Dream a Dream engages over 10,000 young people directly every year, referred from over 40 partners. It worked with over 2,200 educators, and 3,000 volunteers, who reached over 75,000 young people over the course of 2013-2016. In order to increase their breadth of change amongst vulnerable young people, Dream a Dream seek to recruit further participants through targeted home, school and college visits.

Dream a Dream monitors the rate of change by tracking its programme ‘graduates’ every three months with phone calls, or through social media channels, to understand whether the young person is moving towards employment outcomes. This has taken place every quarter since 2012. At the end of 2016, 95% of the young people being tracked were either pursuing higher education, in a vocational training program or an internship, or were in employment.

Dream a Dream endeavours to track graduates once a quarter until the age of 23 to gain an understanding of the duration of change. If they are gainfully employed and meaningfully engaged with life at this point, they may decide to stop tracking them.

How does this help us to manage our impact?

We may use this information to improve how much of an important positive effect (or reduce how much of a negative effect) is experienced by certain people or the planet.

To improve (how much) of the effect is delivered, Dream a Dream analyse the data on the skill development of the young people. Recently this data showed that 20% of participants from one particular school hadn’t shown improvement in any of the five life skill areas. The demographic and geographic data indicated that the school was located in a particular slum community and catered largely to a specific minority group. It spoke to school leaders and learned that, due to the culture of this community, these young people had never ventured beyond their neighbourhood. Life skills are most effectively improved when applied in an external environment, so Dream a Dream negotiated with the school and community, and designed an additional programme to help them get exposure to an external environment.

Dream a Dream continually adapts the programme in response to feedback from participants. At one point data indicated that its sports programme was not achieving its expected results in terms of improving the young people’s ability to manage conflict. In order to address this, Dream a Dream went back to the curriculum to include more sessions around managing conflict, and trained facilitators in being able to better understand, and measure, managing conflict as a skill.


Give me some examples

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