Granada, Spain: one of those places that grasp people’s imagination. History has left its mark on the Alhambra, the old city, the churches and the colourful gardens. Cultures have crossed here again and again. It is the perfect location to try something different in the world of corporate philanthropy: the definition of impact indicators in a collaborative process.
From Spain to Chicago: the Mondelez International Foundation is the giving body of Mondelez, one of the world’s largest food companies. The foundation’s strategic focus is to promote active and healthy lifestyles. A year ago the foundation started a collaborative process with seven of its grantees in the field of healthy lifestyle education to define common impact indicators. The NGOs involved came from China, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain and the UK. They included national branches of international NGOs and national NGOs that were specialists in their field. The International Nutrition Foundation provided the platform for this process.
From Chicago to New Haven: a core ingredient of the process was the support of Dr Rafael Perez-Escamilla, a Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale School of Public Health. Professor Peter-Escamilla advised and coached the participating NGOs in how to document their programmes and their impact, introducing them to the so-called Program Impact Pathways (PIP). PIP is a tool that is widely used in healthcare evaluations to document the impact of an intervention. Essentially, through this process each NGO discovered whether their programmes delivered the desired outcomes they hoped to achieve. Did the activities around good nutrition and physical activity actually help families make positive changes? Are kids getting more exercise? Do they understand the nutrition basics? More importantly, how do we communicate the impact of these programmes in ways that are universally acceptable across all of the NGO partners?
Back in Granada: during the second weekend of September the NGOs, members of Mondelez International and the International Nutrition Foundation got together in Spain. In a first session the NGOs shared their PIP analysis of their programme with their colleagues from around the world. Then Professor Perez-Escamilla suggested a global set of indicators for consideration by Mondelez International and the NGO partners. After an engaging debate about the cultural, legal and government challenges of adopting the metrics, workshop participants narrowed them down to five impact indicators.
In speaking with Nicole Robinson from the Mondelez International Foundation, the success of the workshop offered invaluable insights including:
- Our resolve to reverse obesity trends has unified us across borders.
- We need to measure what matters to prove what works and what doesn’t.
- Small investments to build NGO and community capabilities can go a long way.
- Around the world we’re making progress, but we need a common language for sharing success.
- The diversity of effective ways to lead a healthy lifestyle continues to grow.
There is still work to be done to define how the data needed for the indicators is to be collected. But in most cases it turned out that the data is available. The important lesson learned is that transparent, collaborative, appreciative approaches are valuable for (corporate) foundations. A unique place like Granada may help in such a process, but overall this experience shows that foundations and NGOs have a common interest in defining and comparing impact. This is the case even though we all know about the importance of local context. Mondelez International Foundation has created another recipe for how such a collective process can successfully be managed.
Michael Alberg-Seberich is managing partner of Active Philanthropy. He is a consultant to the Mondelez International Foundation and was part of the process described here.