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Engine starts on new impact tool

March 17th, 2022

A world-first free online impact measurement tool has been launched to provide Australia’s charities and not-for-profits with the indicators to assess their social impact.

Amplify Social Impact Online (Amplify Online) was launched this week by the Centre for Social Impact at UNSW and is expected to save organisations $90,000 per reporting project, or around $300 million in sector-wide savings.

It will enable organisations to concentrate more on service delivery rather than having to allocate internal resources – or hire external contractors - to measure outcomes.

Increasingly, there is an expectation that organisations will demonstrate accountability and present evidence of their work, but quality impact measures are often expensive, time-consuming and prevent small organisations in particular from being able to provide those insights.

This tool will provide a new approach by helping organisations optimise their programs through consistent and reliable assessment of which programs deliver their intended impact.

There has been a long-standing demand for a reliable and scalable means of measuring social impact for-purpose organisations, and now the technology has evolved to the point where such a tool is now available. During the past three years, researchers collaborated with government and a range of Australian charities to work out what was required.

Director of the Centre for Social Impact at UNSW Associate Professor Graham Brown said researchers identified more than 500 relevant outcome indicators and built a reporting framework that will free up the limited resources of Australian for-purpose organisations.

“Every year, $510 billion is spent on Australian community sector programs, without reliable measures of impact or consistent benchmarking,’’ Associate Professor Brown said.

“This is the first time that these organisations will have a verified process for identifying impact, at low or no cost.’’

The first part of the Amplify Online platform is called Indicator Engine and it includes a fully serviced online repository that manages the creation and distribution of evidence-based surveys, based on hundreds of available evidence-backed tools. Indicator Engine then collates and categorises responses to help organisations measure impact across an initiative or social issue.

The platform can also measure other social outcomes, including financial stress, standard of living, mental health, or disaster preparedness – among staff, clients and stakeholders.

It can also help smaller organisations respond to growing impact reporting requirements from some grants and funders.

Amplify Online Project Manage Rose Ahearn said the platform helped level the playing field. “Often organisations making a real impact miss out on opportunities simply because they don’t have the resources or capacity to measure their influence, and this platform aims to change that,’’ she said.

The next phase of the platform – Yardstick, which will offer automated statistical analysis of the data collected – is under construction.

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