Indian Philanthropy Forum – Social impact assessment: the Indian scenario

As Milton Friedman said: ‘One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.’ With a new breed of strategic thinkers becoming philanthropists, older philanthropists adopting new ideologies, senior corporate professionals joining the social sector, and millions of dollars pouring into philanthropic initiatives in India, social impact assessment has become a hot topic.

As part of the Indian Philanthropy Forum Annual Conference in Mumbai in March this year, Dasra facilitated a roundtable discussion among 25 leading Indian grantmakers to discuss the issues surrounding social impact assessment in India. Foundations outlined challenges in measuring impact, such as the lack of clarity in defining and selecting appropriate measurement tools, the lack of baseline data, long time frames for output and outcome measurement, and the dearth of skilled social impact assessment practitioners. Dasra has also written a white paper on the subject.

With only 30 per cent of foundations reviewed evaluating their grantmaking, and only 13 per cent actually measuring outcomes against their organizational vision, determining impact may not rank as a high priority for Indian grantmakers today. But discussions on the topic have begun and the message coming out of this year’s forum, and its latest report, Measuring Up: Landscaping the state of impact assessment practices amongst corporate and family foundations in India, is that it is time for non-profits to start thinking about impact assessment more seriously or they run the risk of falling out of favour in the long run.

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