To create sustainable social impact, funding is important but often it is not directly proportionate to the depth of impact. The Companies Bill, 2013 (Section 135 of the Indian Companies Act) makes it imperative for corporates in India to spend a portion of their profits on CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). On Dec 19th, 2013, we initiated a conversation on twitter to discuss the various aspects of the law and how organisations can leverage this for creating lasting impact and execute this in the spirit that it was intended.
We have attempted to summarize the conversation that came up during the tweet chat in the form of two Q&As for ease of reading. The first one (posted here) is around the legal aspects of Section 135 of the Indian companies Act that was passed earlier this year. The one below outlines recommendations around choosing, monitoring, evaluating and reporting on CSR projects.
If you have any questions on the Bill that have not been covered here, or have a point of view to share on any aspect of doing business in a responsible manner and creating sustainable social impact, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message on our twitter or facebook pages.
Q1. Isn’t it enough for us to measure how much money we’re spending, to know if we’re being effective or not?
A1. In the social sector, it is not always the case that if you spend more money the amount of positive impact you create will increase. Usually what people do with what they get – be it products, skills or a sense of empowerment – determine the positive impacts/changes in their lives that they are able to realize. You must measure these “things people do” and the impacts that they realize to know if you are being effective or not.
Q2. Isn’t this something that can wait until the project is over?
A2. To know whether someone has realized a positive change in his/her life or not, you have to know what his/her situation was (the baseline) before your project began. In turn, you need to have articulated what impacts you expect your project to create, and how, to know what baseline data to capture. All of this should happen before the project begins. In addition, regular monitoring during the life of the project will help you to detect problems early and make course corrections if necessary. This requires you to know what to monitor, which again should be connected to the impacts you want to create.
Q3. What will a project evaluation tell us?
A3.Project monitoring will answer questions like, “What is the progress toward goals?” “What are the short-term results (outcomes)?”
Q4. What will a project monitoring tell us?
A4. Project evaluation will answer questions like, “Why did these outcomes occur?” “What are the long-term results (impacts)?” “What unanticipated results occurred?” “What are the knock-on impacts?” Some evaluation designs can also answer the question of whether the project caused the outcomes measured.
Q5. What are the steps to setting up an M&E system?
A5. The first step is to create a logic model that articulates what impacts you expect your project to create, and works backwards through your outcomes, outputs, activities and inputs. The second step is to formulate indicators at all these levels: impacts, outcomes, outputs, activities and inputs. The third step is to determine which indicators you will measure through monitoring, and which through evaluation.
Q 6. Isn’t there a standard set of indicators we can just use?
A6. If your indicators are not relevant to the changes your project is trying to create, they will not tell you anything about whether you have been successful or not. Therefore, it is very important that your indicators are directly relevant to your project. However, once you have decided what you want to measure, standard indicators can sometimes be useful in telling you how to measure it.
Q 7. What is a good evaluation design?
A7. A good design is one that is both feasible and is able to meet the requirements of the evaluation (in terms of what needs to be assessed, and the levels of statistical precision needed). Some of the factors that determine feasibility are the time, data and resources available. Without a control/comparison group, you will not be able to say definitively that any positive changes that have been measured were caused by your project and not by external factors.