Hi, I’m Sara Olsen. When I graduated from college I moved to the Mississippi Delta with a friend who was teaching in public high school there, and was stunned to realize there is a third world right here in the United States. This set me on a quest I’ve been on ever since, to figure out how can we break the cycle of poverty. I believe one of the most important solutions is simple, if not easy: do business in a way that takes the impacts on people and communities into account.
Fast-forwarding about ten years, I started the first company (SVTgroup.net) exclusively focused on what we’re calling Impact Accounting. For the past 11 years we’ve worked with top investors, foundations, companies and nonprofits to figure out how to measure their effect on peoples’ well-being and on the environment in practical ways. I’ve taught workshops on impact accounting to about 3,000 people, and designed and implemented systems for measuring the environmental or social impact of about $2.5 Billion worth of private equity, debt and grants.
I also co-founded the first business plan competition (gsvc.net) exclusively for startups with a social or environmental mission. I’ve provided impact accounting workshops and advice to the competition over the years and it has provided basic training in impact accounting to about 20,000 people in some 50 countries how to measure their companies’ social impact.
We’ve taken all the lessons we’ve distilled – what I wish I’d known when I started -- and put it into a workshop. Now we’re turning this into a video course, so people who want to learn the basics can do so on their own time, or so that professors can use these lessons in their courses on entrepreneurship, investment, and accounting.
Our goal is to help make impact accounting a standard practice worldwide. By testing this video course we hope to get user feedback and develop another version of the video course next winter. One day we aspire for this to be the seminal educational resource on impact accounting.
What We Need & What You Get
We are raising $10,000 to create and field test the first 6 videos in the series. What we learn we will incorporate into a revised series of the videos to be produced in the first quarter of 2013.
In return for your contributions we are offering the following thank you gifts:
$25 Contributor: pdf of the slides, SVT Cornerstone T shirt, and our deep thanks!
$85 Personal User: one unique login key to the video; pdf of the slides and workbook materials, and a SVT Cornerstone T shirt. Acknowledged as a contributor on the video series and slides.
$350 "Small Business or Nonprofit": up to 5 unique login keys to the video; pdf of the slides and workbook materials, and a SVT Cornerstone T shirt; acknowledged as a contributor on the video series and slides.
$950 "Institutional": up to 25 unique login keys to the video; pdf of the slides and workbook materials, and a SVT Cornerstone T shirt; acknowledged as a contributor on the video series and slides.
$2,500 "Visionary Circle": up to 100 unique login keys to the video; pdf of the slides and workbook materials, and SVT Cornerstone T shirt; acknowledged as a Founding Visionary on the video series and slides. Founding Visionaries will also be invited to help shape the next version of the workshop to make it most useful to their audiences.
$5,000 "Foundation Cornerstone Partner": For Foundation contributors, up to 100 unique login keys to the 6 Cornerstone Videos, SVT Cornerstone T shirt, a pdf of the slides, and one day's live coaching of your users by SVT within the next 12 months. You will also be acknowledged as a Corporate Cornerstone Partner on the video series and slides, and will be invited to our launch event in Fall 2012. Your feedback on what makes the videos useful to your audience will also be given special consideration.
$10,000 "Corporate Cornerstone Partner": For Corporate contributors, up to 100 unique login keys to the 6 Cornerstone Videos, a pdf of the slides, SVT Cornerstone T shirt, and one day's live coaching of your users by SVT within the next 12 months. You will also be acknowledged as a Corporate Cornerstone Partner on the video series and slides, and will be invited to our launch event in Fall 2012. Your feedback on what makes the videos useful to your audience will also be given special consideration.
So far we’ve lined up exciting partners with major international reach:
- A top social entrepreneurship incubator in China, which received 400,000 site visitors last quarter and is ready to translate the digital textbook into Chinese and help disseminate it to their audience
- The head of ESSEC’s Institute of Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the largest center for applied social impact research at any university worldwide that I am aware of; who is ready to translate it into French
- The best-in class program that teaches aspiring impact investors how to find quality deals in frontier market countries like Brazil, India and Egypt, at the Monterey Institute of International Studies
If we don’t reach our entire $10,000 goal we will create as many of the 6 videos as we can afford, and field test those with our partner, the Frontier Market Scouts program, this summer.
Our goal is to reach at least 10 times as many people as we have been able to reach in person during the past 11 years giving talks and workshops.
And once we’ve learned from this pilot with the larger rollout I hope to reach 1,000 times as many.
Thank you for helping us reach this goal!
Other Ways You Can Help
Sharing the word is extremely helpful! Please help us get the word out by sending this to anyone you think might be interested. Please use Indiegogo’s share tools!
If you want to know more read on!
Many businesses, nonprofits, funders, investors and governments are asking “what social or environmental benefits are we getting per dollar we invest?” The question keeps going around and around, but few people have the time to collect the answers, learn how to apply them, and start doing it on top of their regular jobs. In order to break this impasse we plan to provide basic training to as many people as we can in this new skillset of “Impact Accounting.” That way people can get started putting the lessons to work right away, and more of these organizations will be able to factor this information into how they’re choosing where to put their time and money.
As a result, more social and environmental problems will be solved, faster. It will be easier to coordinate efforts with others working toward the same end. And it will be easier to avoid wasting money on things that either don’t work or that have unintended effects we don’t want.
Over the past 11 years, my team has worked with clients to implement systems to measure the environmental or social about $2.5 billion, and reached about 3,000 people directly and at least 20,000 indirectly with my work. I want to increase this by a few orders of magnitude and catalyze the day when Impact Accounting a standard practice worldwide!
Video Workshop Contents
Module 1: Intro
Why manage impact? What is “impact accounting”? Current accounting systems look only at financial value for shareholders. Strengths and weaknesses of this system. Quotes from people talking about the issue that billions are being invested and spent to fund businesses and nonprofits, but major societal and environmental problems remain and in many cases are going in the wrong direction. People talking about what their questions are about how to know what impact is happening in a practical way.
Module 2: Mission & Vision
Discusses the necessity, value and procedure for defining a clear-cut mission and vision to guide the company with.
Module 3: Theory of Change or "Impact Thesis"
Discusses the necessity and value of defining theory of change and how to do so.
Module 4: Stakeholder Map
Discusses the necessity and value of knowing who your key stakeholders are and how to map this, and what the information is useful for. With a worked example.
Module 5: Impact Map
Discusses the necessity and value of breaking out your impact value chain, and how to do so, and what it helps you do.
Points out that many of these first 4 building blocks are somewhat iterative- you do one, you do the next and realize you need to modify the first one, etc.
Module 6: Key Performance Indicators
Discusses the purpose of key performance indicators, how to develop or select them, and what to do with them. Examples.
Future Modules- for another campaign!
Module 7: Desired State
Discusses the purpose of specifying a "desired state" or "addressable impact." how to develop it and what to do with it. How it relates to the use of KPIs and the mission/vision statement.
Module 8: SROI Analysis
How to do an analysis of the social return on investment with the information you have built up. When this might be useful. Examples.
Module 9: Communication
How and why to convey your impact to different audiences. How to determine the Value Profile of your audience, in terms of what sort of info they might be needing in order to make the decision you care about. Examples of different communication pieces, including social media and print.
Module 10: Standards
Provides timely information about emerging standards pertaining to each of the steps prior. E.g. for module 6, what is IRIS, for module 9, what is GIIRS and other certification standards, and how to look into them to see what's current in your space. This would likely be updated more frequently than the other modules, since the content is evolving rapidly.
Module 11: Resources
Provides timely information about further resources that can assist with each of the steps prior. This would likely be updated more frequently than the other modules, since the content is evolving rapidly.
Why now is the time for this to happen
Have you ever noticed that a whole lot of money is spent every year to solve social and environmental problems, but those problems remain, and in many cases, they get worse?
The typical reason you hear is that it’s really complicated to solve social problems! No doubt that’s true. But there are a lot of things in the world that are hard that we’ve done: make a cell phone that worked, or eradicate smallpox, or turn sunlight into electricity. We did those things.
I am sure we can solve way more social and environmental problems than we are now.
I bet we can even do it with the same amount of money we’re spending right now- or less.
The secret is having better ways to measure whether what we’re doing is helping or hurting the social or environmental situation we want to change- ways that every company or nonprofit can do, during the regular course of their daily business.
A whole lot of super smart people and companies are working on the answers. Some really big accounting companies like KPMG and Deloitte have started practices in environmental sustainability and social impact, as have smaller innovators like IDEO and strategy firms like McKinsey. Puma just did a comprehensive environmental impact valuation and another group has measured what nature’s water purification is worth to Coca Cola. Hospitals and insurance companies are starting to show they can save taxpayers’ money by having effective programs to help people who’ve struggled with steady work get and keep jobs, or reduce and even avoid obesity. Even Wal-Mart has made it a goal to have zero waste and zero carbon footprint.
What I’ve found is that it is possible to measure social and environmental value. It is possible whether you are a startup, a giant company, or a huge investment fund. And you don’t have to be a social enterprise- this is something for every company and every nonprofit. It’s happening.
To fix the big problems and create the world we all want to see, we just need to make it happen bigger, faster.