Impact Assessment – 5 Key Takeaways beyond frameworks, standardisation and control


Martina Mettgenberg-Lemiere


Impact Assessment appears to be a continuous improvement area for most funders. To relieve the angst and offer practical solutions from existing practitioners, AVPN released the Guide to Effective Impact Assessment earlier this year. Here are 5 insights to make impact assessment work.

There’s no one size fits all – everything has trade-offs

Most of the organisations we surveyed started with existing frameworks such as Social Return on Investment (SROI) and then moved on to customise their approach to such an extent that they moved away from the original framework. Overall, most of the approaches are customised and organisations find their own way of measuring impact. While this amplifies that not one size fits all, there are trade-offs to the customised approach such as less comparability with other similar business models. This has been the experience of The Happiness Foundation, Social Ventures Hong Kong as well as Caspian Impact Investment Adviser.

Should I still aim for standardisation to compare across my portfolio?

Hardly any organisation we spoke with standardises all indicators for all organisations in their portfolio. Accounting for all relevant parameters on the same scale risks distorting the achievements of each investee.  The common approach appears to be to have some common indicators and then evaluate each investments with customised indicators on its merits. The most experienced investors understand that each investee organisation is on a different stage in their growth journey, has a different business model and moreover different ecosystem to navigate.

Having said this, often organisations aim to standardise across their portfolio after having grappled with customised standard. Some organisations, such as EPIC Foundation, Lombard Odier and Microsoft Japan, start with a standardised approach. For instance, EPIC Foundation selects the organisations it funds already according to the criteria they will assess them on.

Impact assessment starts at due diligence

Even if funders do not develop a fully-fledged impact framework during due diligence, the conversation about impact is integral to due diligence and can often lead to defining initial KPIs which are then translated into the impact assessment framework used during the investment period. JVPF and Lok Capital exemplify this approach. An early start for the impact discussion during due diligence is highly recommended to influence the impact assessment framework.

Be prepared to do impact assessment for the long haul

Regardless of the early start, most organisations find that it takes years to track insights and refine the framework. A reason for this is that the initial framework may not capture the observed impact adequately. Often investments are changing throughout the engagement and therefore an adjustment in the impact assessment framework is useful. This is exemplified by most organisations such as Dasra, Microsoft, Caspian and Mars Catalyst.

Be prepared to learn and work in partnership, rather than assess and control

Given that the journey to measuring impact is a long one, a motivation to learn and to work in partnership rather than just control is key.  Impact assessment can easily be seen as yet another reporting tool. Yet the most successful funders were those who not only structured the impact assessment as a management information system but a way to learn more and adjust their actions and funding. Coupled with motivation for learning, funders doing impact assessment well are also those who partner with their grantees/investees. Partnership increases trust and by consequence also the flow of information. This way it enhances the learning experience for both funders and investees. Organisations like Dasra, RS Group, SVhk and Kopernik attest to this.

Heeding these five points will help any funder make impact assessment work.

The Guide to Effective Impact Assessment distills practices in the four areas of getting started, learning from existing frameworks, implementation and presentation. According to AVPN research, these areas present hurdles to social investors’ approach in impact assessment and the guide presents a synthesis of literature and 13 portraits of Asian impact assessment leaders. Through its hands-on bibliography split into overview reports for general information, cases to provide specific examples and finally practical advice and guidance, the report allows readers to go beyond frameworks. Three additional full-length cases can be found on the website and are by Caspian Impact Advisers, Lok Capital and Axis Bank Foundation.  At the end of November, AVPN will launch its Impact Assessment workshop in India – sit tight for updates or reach out for more information via [email protected]


A. Environmental Stewardship
To protect the environment, we organize programmes like mangrove nursery and Reforestation, Coastal and River Clean-Up, Community Based Environmental Solid Waste Management, Environmental IEC Campaign and Eco-Academy

B. Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood
To ensure a sustainable livelihood for the community, eco-tourism include Buhatan River Cruise Visitor Center Buhatan River Mangrove Boardwalk are run by the community. Others include Organic Vegetable and Root crops Farming, Vegetable and Root crops Chips and by-products Processing and establishing a Zero waste store.

C. Empowered Communities
To empower the community, we provide product and Agri-Enterprise Development Training, Immersion and Learnings Exchange Program, Earth Warrior Training and Community Based Social Entrepreneurship Training


Martina Mettgenberg-Lemiere

Martina Mettgenberg Lemiere, PhD, is Head and founding member of Insights and Capacity Building at AVPN’s Knowledge Centre. In this role, she and her team developed insights for impact assessment, capacity building, the social investment landscape in Asia and the education landscape in India and the continuum of capital initiative. She designs and runs workshops for AVPN and frequently speaks on social investing at Asian and global events. She also is a mentor and enterprise judge in several settings. Over the last 10 years, she lead applied research for social investors, businesses and non-profits focusing on human capital, education and impact at INSEAD, HCLI Singapore, Evalueserve India, and NGOs and investment agencies in Britain. She taught at Universities of Manchester and Sussex and holds a PhD from Manchester Business School and an MSc and BA (Hons) in Anthropology from the University of Sussex and Manchester respectively.

Did you enjoy reading this?

You might also be interested in


Investment Showcase Is Back Online with 40 New Cases!


Pioneering Work in Development Management – an institutional approach


Going Beyond Classrooms to Bridge the Learning Gap