Student Perspective: How can we measure impact?

Sydney Yang, a rising Wharton sophomore and Social Impact Fellow, spent her summer working at GoodCompany Ventures as a Metrics Fellow.

My interest in social impact began early, when I studied abroad as a freshman in high school with The Traveling School.

For three and a half months I traveled throughout Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands with fifteen other girls and four instructors. The world quickly became our classroom and the local people our professors.

Those fifteen weeks, while transformative in themselves, truly ignited a passion for social impact ventures — a passion I now have the privilege to pursue here at Wharton. During my first year, I eagerly joined two student-run social impact clubs: Penn Microfinance and Penn International Business Volunteers. Through these organizations I consulted for international nonprofits both on and off site, further exposing myself to the social impact sphere as a potential career path.

But I quickly learned that social impact is about more than nonprofits and NGOs.

Rather, the industry creates change through a variety of channels, such as social enterprises, microfinance and impact investing practices, and socially oriented accelerators such as GoodCompany Ventures, where I spent this summer as a Social Impact Fellow through WSII.

GoodCompany is a Philadelphia-based accelerator for socially innovative entrepreneurs. As a rising sophomore, the company appealed to me as an opportunity to gain greater exposure to entrepreneurship and the social impact industry at large.

GoodCompany VenturesThe experience here has given me tremendous exposure to a variety of businesses affecting social change. Specifically, I dedicate the majority of my time to exploring one of the industry’s greatest challenges: measuring impact.

This has become the question and focus of my work this summer; how can we quantify impact in a standardized way?

My project has two main focuses:

  • to develop a tool to quantify an organization’s social impact in financial terms
  • to develop, distribute, and aggregate results from an annual social return on investment (SROI) survey, as a means to assess GoodCompany’s accelerator program while supporting the expansion of its alumni program.

My goal at the end of these eight weeks is to present a well-researched and industry-supported impact assessment tool developed through extensive collaboration with GoodCompany’s co-founder and managing director, Garrett Melby.

Currently, this tool consists of a simple one-page template that guides the entrepreneur to reaching a conservative dollar valuation of their social impact. Any explanatory notes from the entrepreneur will be attached. The template is accompanied by a set of directions to identify and quantify external outputs.

We distributed the tool to the most recent class of GoodCompany graduates, who served as initial data points. Additionally, we conducted market research through a variety of networks to determine the market demand for such a tool, concerns and/or criticisms, and the role it may play in impact investing. Moving forward, we plan to continue conducting market landscaping to get diverse responses representative of the industry at large.

Engaging with GoodCompany alumni is another big part of the picture.

During my internship experience, I compiled SROI survey responses from roughly 75 accelerator alumni. The purpose of the survey is to reconnect with alumni, collect updated data on their progress, and critically assess our own program. My goal by the end of my time is to have exceeded last year’s response rate of 40%.

I am about halfway through my internship and have already gained tremendous exposure to the social impact space. I am most eager to build upon my learnings thus far in order to maximize the last few weeks working in this stimulating, collaborative environment.

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetSydney Yang is a Wharton Social Impact Fellow and a rising sophomore at the Wharton School. On campus, she is a project scooper for Penn international Business Volunteers (PIBV) and a Management 100 TA. She is an avid traveler with a passion for the outdoors. She believes sustainable change results from market solutions innovated by entrepreneurs on the ground.