How do we measure impact of our projects?
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not just a mere obligation that corporations have to put up with. Today, as we are surrounded by a myriad of development issues and increasing income gaps, several businesses have realised the importance of their responsibility towards the society. Therefore, through their CSR programmes, businesses are striving hard to make a lasting impact.
It is thus imperative for implementing organisations, (the NGOs who execute the CSR project) to put a rigorous impact monitoring mechanism in place. Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) of CSR initiatives not only help measure the impact, but also help businesses learn from past experiences and improve delivery system of the CSR activities they undertake.
The basic understanding of CSR initiatives is that it strikes a balance between economic benefits to organizations and social benefits to various stakeholders. There are various measures an organisation can take to monitor its CSR activities and the impact on stakeholders. A two-tier monitoring mechanism involving external as well as internal agencies can be established. There can be regular monitoring at units, regions & corporate centres that can report about CSR activities on a monthly or quarterly basis. For proper and periodic monitoring of CSR activities, companies may appoint a CSR committee or a Social Audit Committee or a suitable and credible external agency. A full internal audit must be carried out to ensure effective implementation.
A typical approach for full life cycle project monitoring
Important points to remember while designing an M&E Plan
Monitoring and evaluation can also help in enhancing the ability to consult, coordinate and engage with various stakeholders. A well-structured monitoring and evaluation process leads to identification of relevant issues in a time-bound manner, which in turn can enhance the ability to address the issues through proper performance indicators of CSR activities.
A detailed look into the criteria to be checked while designing an M&E plan are as follows:
1. Efficiency: Are outputs delivered in a cost effective manner and as per expected quantity and quality? Are the resources allocated for CSR activities utilized efficiently? Are the project governance mechanisms (management and coordination) efficient at local, national and funding partnerships levels?
2. Effectiveness: What is the overall progress and achievements of the project components against the expected targets? What are the major bottlenecks/challenges and recommendations to increase efficiency and effectiveness of the project? To what extent do the outputs lead to the intended outcomes? How effective is the integration of the project approaches in the achievement of the objectives? To what extent are there synergies between project components?
3. Relevance: Are CSR activities well-directed towards stakeholders? Are the project objectives consistent with beneficiaries’ needs, state and national policies? Are the implementation partners’ vision & mission aligned to this project?
4. Results: What changes (if any) did the project bring about? How successful has the project been in achieving planned results for the beneficiaries? Are CSR project efforts contributing to pre-determined goals?
5. Sustainability: Will CSR initiatives keep continuing for long duration? Are there any winning conditions (enabling environment) to ensure sustainability after the project support is withdrawn?
6. Monitoring: Monitoring of CSR projects goes concurrently with implementation, and is very important. Monitoring is essential to assess if the progress is on expected lines in terms of timelines, budgetary expenditure and achievement of physical targets.
7. Reporting: Progress report of CSR activities of the Company in reporting format as prescribed under Companies (CSR Policy) Rules, 2014 on a quarterly basis which shall then be put up for consideration of the CSR Committee. On the basis of progress report, the CSR Committee may recommend appropriate action with respect to any policy activity of the company. The CSR Committee shall be apprised of all the CSR activities undertaken. To ensure that the funds are utilized prudently and for the intended purpose, the funds shall be released in a phased manner, upon full satisfaction of the utilization of funds previously given.
This table outlines some important themes along with their indicators that can measure impact