Impact assessment isn’t about comms It's about learning and optimising

The motivation is usually a mix of understanding your organisation's societal contribution, ensuring compliance and accountability, needing to craft a compelling narrative and optimising your purpose-led initiatives. What is always true is that properly-structured and learnings-focused impact assessments are a vital and valuable tool. 

At Archipel&Co, we see impact assessment as an iterative learning process; one we’re driven to design, optimise and implement with our corporate, social enterprise and NGO clients. Before exploring some examples, here are three key elements in our approach

1. From academic to action-ready, we fit each client’s assessment needs
We approach impact assessment like playing LEGO®: we put together the right bricks to build an impact assessment methodology for each client and situation, to the right depth and in the most useful and actionable format. Our team’s diverse expertise and our global network of subject-matter experts enable us to range from robust, publishable scientific studies to pragmatic, easy-to-run assessments. The one brick we won’t play with is green- or social-washing — intent and investment for material impact are prerequisites.

2.Glowing PR is useful, but impact-optimising learnings are the real aim
At Archipel&Co, we are all a combination of thinker, doer and change agent. We have founded social enterprises and B-Corps. We have been the corporate intrapreneur. We know the power and trade-offs of being mission-driven. Our experience means we see impact assessment as a learning process, with the primary and most valuable output being actionable learnings. PR assets are great, of course, but the true aim is gathering the knowledge needed to evolve, improve and maximise your impact delivery across the board, from commercial to purpose-led aims.

3.Unveiling all kinds of impacts: expected and unexpected, grassroots and systemic
Everyone has a sense of — and usually preconceived expectations regarding — their (potential) impact. We start there and then take things further, supporting our clients to identify unexpected, indirect effects to gain a 360° view of their impact landscape. We design the process to deliver results that enable our clients to showcase their unique approach and value, prioritise what to measure and communicate, and enhance their business case and/or fundraising. Our team’s ability to unearth the unexpected stems from two sources. Firstly, our outside perspective gives us a fresh viewpoint from which to evaluate a client’s impact. Secondly, our overarching focus on social innovation — combined with the pool of subject-matter experts we’re able to call on — positions us to deliver quality, sector-relevant assessments, always with a driving focus on optimising our clients’ impact. 

We could keep going on impact strategy, maps and pathways, but time now to explore a few examples of impact assessments we’ve delivered, guiding our corporate and NGO clients to identify, evolve and optimise their impact.

Approach 1: Supporting corporates to uncover, quantify and maximise socio-economic contribution
This is a holistic approach designed to assess social impact and business value creation in one, often at a regional or national scale, to address strategic, commercial, reputational and — most importantly — impact maximisation objectives.  

Quantifying online marketplace leboncoin’s contribution to French society
With 28 million monthly users, leboncoin is France’s leading peer-to-peer e-commerce platform. The company wanted to understand and demonstrate its positive economic and social contribution. Our team’s initial findings provided a fruitful communications and advocacy launchpad, including coverage in leading French newspaper Le Monde. We also put leboncoin’s impacts into perspective with theoretical frameworks and comments from external observers, ranging from philosophers to economists. But we never settle for impact assessment for its own sake; it’s a stepping stone and part of a process to maximise a client’s social contribution. We unpack this more in the next section.

Our 360° approach: uncovering leboncoin’s unexpected impact
We were able to shed light on a key, indirect benefit of the company: its contribution to the French job market via the power of the collective. From a site intended to sell second-hand items (clothing, furniture, etc.), users evolved leboncoin into a job-sharing forum that is central to the future of work in France. For instance, we found that over 800,000 people find “real/full-time” work on the platform every year. The platform has gained positive socioeconomic utility beyond its original scope, which the company hadn’t previously had the insights to leverage. 

Assessing social and business benefits in parallel for Bel, a leading dairy company
Bel approached us to evaluate the impact of their Inaya Program, an ambitious commercial and social impact initiative to provide health insurance to Moroccan grocery shopkeepers selling Bel products. The objective was two-fold: 1) assess the programme’s social impact via the advantages of health insurance for the shopkeepers, and 2) evaluate the business benefits of the initiative in terms of improved brand loyalty and increased sell-in and sell-out. Simultaneously demonstrating social impact and business value generation, we created a comprehensive evidence base to inform Bel’s future impact programmes. 

Approach 2: Blending impact assessment, programme design and operational support
Guided by our client’s needs and objectives and driven by our mission to “make important happen,” we leverage a variety of social innovation and impact skills and solutions to ensure that the insights of impact assessment drive action. We can combine the design of a measurement and evaluation framework with field-based, primary data collection. The insights from those results naturally lead to improved impact strategies and programme (re)design. We can also extend the support to in-market initiative implementation at pilot-test or scale-up stages.

From impact evaluation, to programme design, to in-field execution for leboncoin
As mentioned above, Archipel&Co has conducted annual national impact assessments for leboncoin, identifying unexpected value and impact and quantifying the P2P platform’s significant contribution to French society and economy. We’ve since worked with leboncoin to refine their purpose statement and define their social impact strategy. From there, we moved from evaluation to designing programmes and accelerating execution. One example is “Le Bon Pour Ma Ville,” launched in several cities across the North of France. This initiative supports the revitalisation of tier-2 cities, by collaborating with and supporting local shopkeepers and building links between brick-and-mortar SMEs, citizens and local NGOs and national-scale e-commerce.  

Parallel impact evaluation and strategic support for leading French NGOs
Archipel&Co is proud to be working with some of the most impactful NGOs in France (e.g.: Emmaüs Connect, LinkedOut,  and Synergie Family). With a “learn and improve” approach to impact assessment at their core, these relationships now include a strategic advisory role, research and insights, and even joint ventures. With our NGO partners, we simultaneously map and optimise their impact, moving quickly to concrete programme (re)design, developing tools such as beneficiary journeys and strategic and operational recommendations like strategic positioning, development roadmaps, HR and governance structure, operational execution, and scale-up support.
Whether they’re focused on at-risk youths, extending employment opportunities to underserved segments or tackling the digital divide, our ability to quickly map and pull insights from their stakeholder ecosystem and analyse these into actionable insights is yielding measurable impact and delivering new opportunities. One powerful and concrete (literally) example is our joint venture with Synergie Family, L’Épopée: a 12,000 square metre social innovation and impact-focused third space in Marseille which we launched in 2021. It has already attracted over 200 social innovators, creatives and SMEs. 
Across private- and social-sector clients (and all those social innovators in between), our experience shows the value of combining impact assessment with strategic and executional support.

Approach 3: Designing M&E processes to build lasting, internal impact assessment capacity within our clients’ organisations

For our NGO and corporate clients alike, watertight monitoring and evaluation (M&E) frameworks are vital to justify programme funding, inform initiative design and ensure impact projects are optimally supporting their intended beneficiaries. From compliance, coordination and accountability to impact traceability and communications, M&E is essential. Above all, though, we value our M&E design work for its ability to support our clients and their partners to learn and optimise their impact long-term. 

For global clients, our experience inside multinationals allows us to ensure that M&E frameworks and tools take into account the organisation’s unique structure and balance of centralised or decentralised execution. In 2021, we worked with a leading global hygiene brand to design an impact measurement framework and an internal segmentation of distributed teams, pinpointing which M&E elements to centralise at headquarters and which to roll out for regional ownership and implementation by local teams. This strikes a practical (and politically acceptable) balance between centralised target-setting and tool-building and localised implementation and insights adoption, delivering a clear roadmap, analytical consistency and improved impact delivery. 


Assessing your organisation’s (unexpected) impact: 3 steps to implement now

1. Start by gaining a clear picture of what you’re already measuring

Step back to spring forward: review the impact measurement processes you already have in place. What direct insights are you gaining? Are there secondary insights you could also glean from these metrics? Which gaps are there to fill going forward?

2. Explore impact assessment best practices for your focus issue

How are impact trailblazers aligned with your focus measuring their impact? Social innovators’ methods can provide key inspiration and resources for major organisations — read more in our article on transforming brand purpose into strategic action.

3. Remember that impact assessment is an evolving art

For our clients and ourselves, impact evaluation is a continual, dynamic learning process. We evolve for and with our clients, always pursuing that signature Archipel&Co theory-to-action result.