Research Center Events

Sixth Annual Satter Conference Explores Latest Strategies for Measuring Social Impact

"Great strides have been made in the field of social entrepreneurship, but the ability to measure and communicate the impact of a venture's efforts still remains a significant challenge for most organizations," says NYU Stern Professor Jill Kickul, organizer of NYU Stern's Sixth Annual Satter Conference of Social Entrepreneurs.
Tackling this issue head-on, some 220 world-wide practitioners from the public, nonprofit and for-profit fields, along with leading scholars, convened for the Satter Conference on November 6. Hosted by Stern’s Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, the event followed a two-day academic conference featuring some of the latest research in the areas of social enterprise and measuring an organization’s social impact.

Jed Emerson, managing director for integrated performance at Uhuru Capital, kicked off the November 6 event by sharing his personal reflection on society’s shared progress in the field of social enterprise and performance metrics. Looking ahead, he cited several obstacles to the field’s continued success, including the implementation of social management information systems across industries and the embedding of metrics into day-to-day business practices.

Richard Steele of Bridgespan Group moderated a panel discussion on impact investing with Georgette Wong, president of Correlation Consulting; Josh Cohen, managing partner of City Light Capital; Sean Stannard-Stockton, CEO of Tactical Philanthropy Advisors; and Tris Lumley, head of strategy at New Philanthropy Capital. The panelists tackled a number of issues including:

• Risks associated with the blurring boundary between government and philanthropy
• Dangers of separating metrics and passion
• The effect of pension funds entering the social sector as impact investors
• Role of incentives in the social enterprise sector

Durreen Shahnaz, founder of the Impact Investment Exchange (IIX) in Asia, spoke to attendees about how a social stock exchange, such as IIX, can provide capital-raising tools for social enterprises and market entry and exit mechanisms for investors. She outlined some key determinants of success for IIX:

• Investor appetite
• Ecosystem for impact investing to thrive
• Resolving cross-border issues

Laura Callanan of McKinsey & Company's Social Sector Office and Larry McGill of the Foundation Center introduced two soon-to-be released social impact assessment efforts. Callanan, the Social Sector Office's philanthropy expert, presented McKinsey's recent work on Learning for Social Impact geared for foundations and other funders. The initiative includes a white paper on assessment best practices, a handbook to assist practitioners in designing a learning driven assessment, and a variety of reference materials. McGill, vice president for research at the Foundation Center, introduced an online database of Tools and Resources for Assessing Social Impact (TRASI), which contains 150 tools for measuring and analyzing social impact for programs and investments. The tools are currently being evaluated according to their credibility and feasibility by a group of academics and practitioners assembled by Stern Professor Jill Kickul.

John MacIntosh of SeaChange Capital Partners, a nonprofit firm that seeks to arrange funding for high-performing organizations, delved into a case study about Uncommon Schools, an organization operating charter schools in Brooklyn, Newark and upper state New York that seeks to prepare low-income students for college. According to MacIntosh, Uncommon Schools possessed several essential elements, which attracted SeaChange to the collaboration, including:

  • • Well-run operations
  • • High impact program proven to cause sustainable, positive change
  • • Pre-existing plan to increase impact in the future

Brian Trelstad, chief investment officer of the Acumen Fund, delivered some closing remarks. He described the blending of both traditional and social returns in “patient capital,” where investors are willing to forgo returns for an extended period of time. He also explored the question of risk, encouraging practitioners and investors to ask themselves, “What is the risk of not investing?”

During a networking reception and awards ceremony, the 2009 Satter Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award was presented to Scott Harrison, founder of charity:water, an organization that has raised more than $10 million and provided more than 700,000 people in 16 developing nations with clean, safe drinking water.