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Talking Data: What is Material?

MFG Archive

Eleanor Radford of the Social Impact Analysts Association (SIAA) sheds light on their Annual Conference, and what their hopes and expectations are for the development of social impact reporting


Talking Data: Measurement with a message is the Social Impact Analysts Association’s 2014 Annual Conference, and we, at SIAA HQ, are very excited about it. We are inviting delegates working in the field of social impact measurement and analysis from across the globe to come together for two days of workshops, interactive activities and networking to talk about how we can make our measurements deliver the right message with the most impact.

As Markets For Good readers, we would not only like to extend the invitation to attend out to you, but to raise the issue of why we need the conference, and why it needs to focus on impact data and materiality.

Our 2013 Annual Conference, Beyond Measurement, opened up a lot of interesting discussion and created a huge momentum for the work that we have been doing ever since. At the same time, it raised many unanswered questions that we will be taking the opportunity to address this year. John Gargani, Gargani + Company, raised questions around how we can best communicate the impact data we collect. When standards for communicating data are still evolving, how can we be certain that we are communicating in the most effective way? Gargani states that we are “driven by a belief that better communication leads to more effective use of impact findings.” It is certainly hard to understate the value of communicating well.

One factor to consider when communicating data is deciding what should be included in an impact report. It is important to think about whom we are talking to and how we can influence them. Do we write the same report for external stakeholders and internal decision makers?

For the SROI Network, materiality is defined as “[determining] what information and evidence must be included in the accounts to give a true and fair picture, such that stakeholders can draw reasonable conclusions about impact.” Different information will have a different influence on different readers so what is included will change depending on who the report is written for. So if we are changing the content of a social impact report for our audience, how do we decide what is material?

Greg Thomson of Charity Intelligence Canada, argued, in a recent blog for SIAA, the importance of charities knowing what goes in an impact report in order to receive funding. Talking about Charity Intelligence Canada’s report on Social Results Reporting, he said, “We were only able to find 34% of the information that we would like to see.” This raises questions around the availability of guidelines on what should be included.

By bringing together delegates from across the field, we will be able to address the question of materiality and how we ensure that measurements deliver the right message. Talking Data will open up international discussion and inspire our delegates to explore new ideas and seek solutions to existing issues. Together we can not only get data talking but shouting from the rooftops.

The Social Impact Analysts Association’s  2014 Annual Conference, Talking Data: Measurement with a message, will be held in Toronto on November 3rd – 4th in partnership with Social Asset Measurements and Charity Intelligence Canada.

As ever, be sure to follow the Social Impact Analysts Association, and if you have any questions, please comment below.

This blog was first published on the Talking Data website, and has been repurposed for the Markets For Good audience. Click here to view the original post.