Part of movement work involves sharing knowledge and feedback with like-minded stakeholders in your community or issue area.
Cataloging and promoting the approaches, narratives, and insights that you’ve found to move the needle is an important practice to ensure that what works, scales.
But it’s important to track the impact of your work beyond the wins you’re eager to share.
Even the best intentioned initiatives can promote good in one place and do harm in another—for example, a campaign might call on one community to recycle…only to have some of those recyclables wind up dumped on land owned by other communities in a different part of the world.
It’s important to strive for impact reporting that can uplift your known wins and help trace any ripple effects or new needs that have arisen as a result of your actions.
An impact initiative that impresses and inspires your own community but compromises another is an opportunity for learning, but isn’t truly a success.
A thorough measurement and evaluation framework, tracking actions, outputs, and outcomes as far as necessary, can prompt you to ask important questions about the impact of your actions as you attempt to trace them the whole way through.
Tracking your impact is a vital part of reporting, change making, and movement-building. Many of us have to do it for funding and reporting purposes but it’s also an important additive for the wider field of social impact.
It’s so exciting when our campaigns, projects, or programs have wins—it’s really imperative that we celebrate these—so yes, definitely send out those listserv blasts, scream it from the rooftops, and publish that report! In the excitement of it all, it’s so tempting then to just focus on the positive outcomes and report only those to your team, funders, prospective clients, and networks.
However, it's vital to relay not only the inputs and outcomes that are positive but also the ones that may have had neutral or negative impacts too. Sharing the FULL STORY is necessary for everyone in the movement to learn from as we build upon our collective lessons. If we don’t, we risk the possibility that others may replicate our mistakes and duplicate or compound harms—which is the last thing we want to happen.
As people actively building a movement towards a more just world, we need to prioritize sharing lessons learned from both our successes and our mistakes. While it may be embarrassing to say you thought a certain community would engage with xyz messaging strategy or program that ended up falling flat, it will give others the opportunity to not make those same mistakes, and can instead direct that energy and capacity toward building out better solutions.
Relatedly, we must be sure to share our impact with the participants and communities in which we are working too—not just the people outside supporting the work. Because we know that community members who are most impacted are the ones closest to the solutions, we need to make sure our efforts and resources are supporting and activating their capacity and therefore, supporting our collective vision for a more just and equitable world.