Social Impact Measurement

Innovation and Impact: Taking Your Organization 10x: Lessons from the Indian Approach to CSR



The Sustainability Platform team, in partnership with PeoplePro Trainers and Consultants, held the first of what is shaping out to be a series of workshops on how to take your impact 10x. While we have done the same workshop around the world, this is the first time we did in front of an audience of Indian CSR practitioners. Here are some of the lessons we have learned along the way:

The Challenges Are Global, The Solutions Are Local

Wherever in the world you work, if you are an impact-driven organization looking to create change in the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) markets, chances are you will come across a similar set of challenges. Lack of trust, an inadequate infrastructure, high barriers to entry and lack of relevant policies often times hinder the CSR efforts. While these challenges are global, the most successful initiatives are the ones that focus on local solutions. This includes building long-term relationships with the communities; hand in hand cooperation with government bodies and a “long game” approach to impact. That might mean the shared value will take longer to be created, but the solid foundation will increase the impact 10x.

Creating an Ecosystem is a Priority

The key to sustainable social change is creating an ecosystem involving all the relevant players. This includes academia, public and private sectors, beneficiaries and non-governmental organizations. A dialogue between all the stakeholders is necessary to ensure no backtracking is happening and proper strategies are in place. Lack of communication and the exchange of ideas is an issue in many parts of the world and have severe effects of the end beneficiary and as such need to be addressed as soon as possible. Indian CSR practitioners are very open to collaboration, and proper channels need to be in place to facilitate the conversation.

Funding Remains an Issue

The Sustainability Platform firmly believes that the future of CSR budgets is impact investing. Many NGO and social enterprise managers bring up a lack of corporate funding as one of the biggest obstacles in reaching their end goal and scaling their operations. On the flip side, many CSR managers do not know how to deploy their funds to ensure maximum impact. That gap can easily be bridged if we start looking at CSR programs as impact funds that are aligned with the overall strategy of the company. The global case studies prove this to be a viable concept and hopefully we will be seeing a lot more of this approach in the Indian (and Middle Eastern) markets.

Don’t Do Things for Free

The CSR team has a great program or a product that the BOP market really needs and they are very excited about it until they realize no one from the community has signed up for it or seems to be interested in it. Their first response is to start adding on perks, from a free meal and transport to employment possibilities. And yet, the results seem to be really low. It has been proven over and over again that, in order to ensure your customer takes your service seriously, there needs to be cost attached to it. From malaria nets in Sub-Saharan Africa to vocational trainings in India, the most successful strategies are the ones that empower the beneficiaries to make the choice by paying for it. This psychological trick works in all cultures and markets, the only thing to be mindful of is finding the right pricing strategy. That way you ensure commitment and instill a sense of pride.


To know more about our executive workshop series contact us at

To know more about our partners PeoplePro visit

Watch your STEP & Top Tech companies to watch out for in MENA


Written by Aya Sadder - Expecting to grow to 8,000 people in 2017, Ray Dargham – Founder of STEP Group, announced as he welcomed 4,000+ through the doors at Dubai International Marine Club this April. With the wave of startups, speakers, incubators, angels and VC’s exhibiting at STEP, the crowd seemed to want more. It’s a good thing there’s still 2017.

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While most of the startups have come to exhibit their hard work over the course of weeks, months and some even a few years, and yet expectations are as high as the cost of the tickets and every minute echoes the sound of excitement, mixed with fear, sweat and competition. Albeit all of this, there was still one big discussion that was on the tongue of all the startups: the need for funding. VC’s like LEAP Ventures & MEVP among others took to the stage pieces of advice that would help startups remain successful in a highly condensed market like the UAE. Tena Pick, Head of Advisory at VentureFin, stated that “a good business idea comes from a desire to change the status quo as opposed to starting a business as a means to gain purely financial profit.” Among the startups at STEP this year, I have listed a few below that are bringing that innovation and creativity to the table.

“If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians.” – Warren Buffet.

Entrepreneur Middle East‘s Editor-in-chief, Fida Chaaban, moderated the opening panel at STEP 2016 to begin the discussion around the investment opportunities that are investable and why? Ms. Hala Fadel, Co-Founder at LEAP Ventures, responded with figures: “we should be investing at least 0.3% of the overall GDP capital injected into the UAE economy which is about 1.2 billion USD in funding.” Although she is correct to look at global best practices that have played out successfully; in this region,  if we are to do it correctly, we need to have the right infrastructure in place that allows for more failures and testing in the marketplace before we can drop in a much more serious amount of capital. We need a lot more funding support from the government in STEM & Fintech as the future shines bright for these industries.


Here are some of the startups that are moving the needle forward in the technology space in the MENA region:

1) Vybz: The latest and greatest in the entertainment technology space right now. Vybz is a musical social network bridging the gap between established artists, up & coming musicians and fans.

2) Need a shiny place in a fancy city like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or Doha? Justmop gets the job done. They are an online on-demand marketplace for booking cleaners to help you keep your most precious resource, your time.

3) IRIS Solutions: One of the most innovative and latest technology solutions to autism. The Sensory Box created by IRIS Solutions is a cutting-edge & affordable approach to create a rehabilitation-friendly and safe environment – mostly but not only – for households with children who are affected by developmental disorders.

4) Bridg: On a mission to spread Fintech to masses and let people know they hear them when it comes to the pain of dealing with their banks.

5) Magnitt: A portal that helps and supports startups from concept exploration to launch and growth. All you have to do is join their platform to connect with Investors, Mentors and Potential Partners!

6) Gruptrip: No more forgetting who owes what, forgetting to share the photos, worrying what the itinerary is going to look like. With Gruptrip, everybody gets to see what’s going on through a click of a button. Available both on the app store and play store.

7) Higher Education: Education is the backbone of a society. And Higher Education provides a one stop destination to find out about all universities, colleges, higher education service providers and courses on offer in the United Arab Emirates.

The Vendedy Pilot, Haiti, September 2014


September is always a busy time in the life of The Sustainability Platform, with the Hult Prize finals and Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting (more on that in the next post), but this September takes the cake. We were invited by our very dear friend and colleague Christine Souffrant to join her in Haiti for a ten-day pilot for her new venture, Vendedy. Vendedy is a global on-line platform that aims provide street artisans from around the world with a marketplace for their products, cutting out the middleman and allowing the street artisans to see the true value of their product. A daughter of street vendors herself, Christine knows the importance of empowering them and we could not pass on the opportunity to be a part of it all.

The pilot took place in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital still recovering from the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in 2010. The five-member team had a seemingly simple task: to gather as much data as possible on the street vendors and record their stories, giving them an opportunity to present themselves and their art to the world. Everyone who has ever worked in the development sector knows that things that look simple enough on the paper often turn into a logistical nightmare once on ground, and we were not the exception from that rule.

Haiti is in a complete state of NGO fatigue, which is completely understandable given what the last five years looked like. People are tired of foreigners coming in and promising change, only to leave when the funding runs out or a new disaster happens. Gaining the trust of the local community is the most important thing any new social enterprise has to do, and also the most rewarding. The single most important thing we did during the pilot was finding a way to engage with the local community and getting not only their support, but also their commitment to the project so that we can integrate them into the business model. After that, everything went a lot more smoothly; artisans opened up, the data we gathered was very high level and the stories we recorded are invaluable.

The Sustainability Platform went in as the social impact measurement partner and as such we focused on developing a set of metrics that Vendedy can use not only in Haiti but in other geographies as well. They include the increase in disposable income and quality of life, but also “soft” criteria, like the increase in self worth and levels of happiness. We believe that social enterprises need to see the bigger picture and look for answers to the most difficult questions, not shy away from them because they are hard to measure. This reinforces the purpose behind the business and allows for a high level of credibility when scaling up to different regions.

Our Haiti experience taught us so much about the resilience of human spirit and the beauty that can be found around us, but even more about our own work. Learning by doing is the only way to grow, especially in challenging environments such as this one, and we can honestly say that is one of our finest works up to date.

For more information about Vendedy and the pilot team please visit:

Social Impact Measurement: Why does it Matter


Originally written for Social Enterprise Hive, The Magazine and published at

Social entrepreneurs around the globe are united by their desire to do good. We are motivated by the desire to create a dent in this world, challenge the status quo and make a difference. But at one point, sooner or later, we all ask our selves one question: Am I really making a difference and if yes, how much of it?

Social enterprises are usually started by people with great ideas and even better intentions, but not necessarily by people with business skills and business mindsets. The purpose of social enterprises is to bridge the gap between the efficiency of the corporate sector and the intentions of the non-profit sector, but we as social entrepreneurs often times fail to deliver the “efficiency” part. Every business, big or small, will be able to tell you exactly how much they are selling, how may costumers they have and what their outreach it. While the challenges we face in the social enterprise field are a bit different, the principle remains the same: measuring matters and just because it is hard (and it is, trust me), does not mean you can or should avoid it.

The first step in conducting a social impact measurement is deciding the why. Why are you doing it? What is the purpose of the final report? Are you trying to attract investors or are you doing it to ensure you as an entrepreneur know what you are doing right and what could use some improvement. The difference between an internal and an external use of the social impact measurement report determines the level of rigor necessary to conduct the research and the analysis.

Once you have determined the why, you need to decide on the who. Who are your main stakeholders, what is their importance and what are the inputs they have in your project? Are they giving their time, money or something else to you? What are the outputs and the outcomes that follow?

Now comes the fun part. You might believe you have a great effect on the self-esteem of people you are working with. You might be empowering the women in the community or reducing the level of loneliness of senior citizens. But how do you put a numeric value on those things?
Your potential investors might care about those things on a personal level, but chances are they will need more to give you money. There are various tools and frameworks out there that can help you do the analysis and find the most appropriate way for your case to quantify your impact.

There is a lot of truth in the statement “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” and it is time that we as social entrepreneurs take on the challenge of measuring our social impact. It will give us the legitimacy and advance the efforts in making this world a better place.