AVPN Roundtable on Technological Innovation and Impact Measurement


Olivia Wang

AVPN Roundtable on Technological Innovation and Impact Measurement


5 min read

Summary Points:

  • Technology innovation offers new possibilities to social development and financing
  • Given the complexity of the data ecosystem in developing regions, a holistic approach of ‘AI + IA’ is critical to effectively engage and empower grassroots communities
  • Find out how SZC collects last-mile data by building the capacity of the local community and empowering them to take ownership and be the agents of change

Digital technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence and blockchain are transforming the way we think, act and make decisions. While it’s common to see these buzz words occupying the headlines in the commercial world, few may have wondered what their implications are for social development.

The recent AVPN roundtable on Technological Innovation and Impact Measurement offered participants food for thought on the new possibilities enabled by technology.

Technological Innovation and Impact Measurement

Presenting at the roundtable was Tat Lam, the co-founder and CEO of SZC Impact Holdings (SZC). An urban researcher by training, Tat has rich experience working in the social impact ecosystem. He shared with participants how SZC bridges gaps in collecting last-mile data by empowering the local population to be the agents of change.

AVPN Roundtable on Technological Innovation and Impact Measurement_Roundtable Image

AVPN Roundtable on Technological Innovation and Impact Measurement_About SZC Impact Holdings

Before diving into the key lessons learnt from projects driven by SZC Holdings, there are two overarching challenges clouding impact measurement and decision making:

“AI” or “IA”?

AVPN Roundtable on Technological Innovation and Impact Measurement_AI or IA

Source: SZC Impact Holdings, 2017. AI + IA: A methodological discussion of building a data-empowered platform.

Taking into consideration the complexity of the data ecosystem in developing regions, big data is not the informational panacea and AI will not work without quality inputs. To ensure frontline data quality, implementation efficiency and timely actionable insights for decision makers and end-beneficiaries, SZC highlights the critical role of IA and lean data (locally relevant data with controllable quality of input and output). It is important to build the capacity of IA at the frontlines of social development programs and empower them to engage with AI in the larger data ecosystem.

AVPN Roundtable on Technological Innovation and Impact Measurement_AI IA on the Chain

Source: Decentralizing for economic inclusion, SZC Impact Holdings

Where is the “divide”?

AVPN Roundtable on Technological Innovation and Impact Measurement_Divide

Source: Decentralizing for economic inclusion, SZC Impact Holdings

Thanks to the rapid infrastructure development and increasing availability of digital devices in recent years, digital literacy has become less of an issue. However, data literacy divide remains serious, especially among the grassroots communities. SZC has developed the Data Literacy Calculator, a tool for understanding how ready a community or program engagement is able to utilize digital tools and data to create bilateral data flows. SZC has further built an infrastructure that leverages IA to improve data literacy in the community to fundamentally solve the problems of data quality and ownership.

AVPN Roundtable on Technological Innovation and Impact Measurement_Understanding Data Literacy

Source: Decentralizing for economic inclusion, SZC Impact Holdings

Data literacy as building blocks for Social Development – A Case Study in China

The China Development Research Foundation (CDRF), a policy think tank for the Chinese Central government recognized that measuring the impact of its Early Childhood Development (ECD) Home Visiting Program played a key role on whether it would be relevant to scale the program across China. Yet, gathering quality data from the frontlines posed a big challenge.

To address this issue, SCZ developed a mobile device-enabled field kit based on blockchain technology for CDRF. The program identified and empowered home visitors to be the IAs to collect lean data for reporting. All home visitors, parents and guardians were able to use their own Decentralized Application (DAPP) to cross validate ECD outcomes after each house visit, and were rewarded with digital vouchers. The cross validation and incentive mechanisms not only cut down layers of supervision, but also allowed for outcomes and impact generated to be evaluated in a centralized database. All online activities are stored on a blockchain database. Parents of children with Decentralized Identification (DID) can access children’s personal data while ensuring data privacy and data ownership. In addition to the tremendous improvements in data accuracy and engagement, the program has also led more mothers to apply to be home visitors and increased their household income.

AVPN Roundtable on Technological Innovation and Impact Measurement_Closing Data Divide in Developing Regions

Source: Decentralizing for economic inclusion, SZC Impact Holdings

Identity and data sovereignty as the start of inclusion – A Case Study in Brazil

Starting early this year, SZC has been working with the Ministry of Social Development in Brazil to come up with data collection solutions in an effort to improve the delivery of ECD services to children from underprivileged households.

The major challenge in “onboarding” these vulnerable communities to provide data is the lack of trust. Families fear their data will disqualify them from participating in national social development programs or getting flagged for informal activities. SZC designed a solution that enables household members to have control over which part of their data to disclose and to whom. By separating their personal data from their needs data, there was more buy in from the community and households were more willing to participate in the data collection process.

AVPN Roundtable on Technological Innovation and Impact Measurement_Integrating Child's Data into an One-Point DID

Source: Decentralizing for economic inclusion, SZC Impact Holdings

The projects by SZC demonstrated how decentralized technologies coupled by a holistic ‘AI + IA’ approach can enable better impact assessments and thus facilitate social finance and inclusive economies. Undoubtedly, technological innovation is a powerful driver of a more efficient and equitable mechanism for impact measurement and management. However, challenges remain in designing impact frameworks, strategies and processes. To keep the momentum of the discussion on the topic of impact measurement and management, AVPN is hosting a workshop with the Impact Measurement Project (IMP) on 19 September 2018. As part of AVPN’s Impact Investing Training Series in Hong Kong, this workshop will focus on what investors can learn from the IMP’s shared convention to understand and communicate about impact across the value chain. We will be exploring these shared fundamentals and previewing the practical tools IMP community has co-created for impact management.

To join us at the next AVPN event in Hong Kong, please write to us at [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


Olivia Wang

Olivia was AVPN's Knowledge Manager for North Asia from 2017 to 2019. She worked closely with AVPN’s unique network of funders and resource providers to create and share insights on the social investment markets and innovative practices to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Olivia is passionate about education and social development in the Asia-Pacific region, and aims to bring forward the best available knowledge and information to facilitate the mobilization of resources and people to engender development. Prior to joining AVPN, Olivia served as a research associate trainee and project assistant at the UNESCO headquarters and office, responsible for developing and implementing projects related to the UN SDGs, and drafting research publications for SDG4 - Education 2030 agenda. Olivia holds an MSEd in International Educational Development from the University of Pennsylvania and a BEng (Hons) in Material Science and Engineering from National University of Singapore.

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