We’re incredibly fortunate to have a community of amazing business coaches who guide and support our startups across all aspects of starting a social business. From this community, Kathy Hoyt, Caleb Heard, and Kathryn Cairns work as a team to support the startups as they navigate the world of social impact.
As we near the finish line of our 16-week accelerator program, Kathy shared some insights on how to measure the social impact at a startup. check out what she had to say below!
“Great pitch, how are you going to measure your impact?”
I love this question. It signals that the asker is interested in more than a start-ups’ financial return and wants to know about the social or environmental impact that the for-purpose business aims to achieve. And “what gets measured, gets done” right?
Well yes …. but for a for-purpose founder, this question about measuring impact might prompt a long, thoughtful pause.
It’s not that the founder has nothing to say – they started the business because they are passionate about the issue and creating impact, and they are likely to have a plan to understand how they are changing peoples’ lives. It’s just that the phrasing of the question suggests the presence of a metric that perfectly captures impact, when in fact understanding and measuring impact is multi-faceted and always challenging.
RemarkableTech’s accelerator program adopts a capacity-building approach to social impact measurement with each years’ cohort of disability tech entrepreneurs. Combining workshops and coaching during the accelerator they support the teams to:
1. Understand the problem – social issues are complex and systemic. Entrepreneurs can learn from experts and existing research in addition to co-designing with their customers;
2. Articulate an impact model – creating a clear, shared view of how the new product or service can create change in the system and in people’s lives can guide a start-up’s growth;
3. Start gathering evidence – the best outcome evidence combines narratives with data and informs decision making. Even early-stage businesses can start capturing their customers’ impact stories and exploring short-term outcome measurement.
Handi.co cofounded by brother-and-sister team Andrew Gurza and Heather Morrison are on a mission to put sexual pleasure in reach for hundreds of millions of disabled people. Handi are developing the first line of sex toys that don’t rely on the use of hands.
Handi’s value to people living with disability seems clear. But the co-founders can tell a deeper impact story based on how they’re working to understand the problem.
Sex and disability is a taboo topic that is not talked about enough, with disabled people being treated as if they are asexual. In fact, sexual pleasure is a recognised human right and research links orgasm to improved physical and mental health. For people living with a disability, Handi’s products can also positively impact independence and even identity.
In response to this critical need, Handi has designed their impact model to include creating accessible sex toys, connecting to the disability community around sexuality, and loudly advocating alongside them! This way Heather and Andrew will improve many individual lives AND contribute to changing the broader conversation.
What about gathering evidence? The Handi team are listening to people living with disability so know that 63% of physically disabled people have difficulty self-pleasuring due to hand limitations and that 92% want a toy designed for them. Over-time Handi’s core impact will be visible through the thousands of disabled people who buy their products and the reasons they love them.
To learn more about Handi, head to https://www.thatshandi.co/.
What do teams get from focusing on impact early?
It’s never too early to start the impact measurement journey but start-ups should take a practical approach that fits with their stage of development and resources. Being clear on the logic and existing research underpinning your solution can give a strong message to investors, stakeholder and potential employees even before you have your first customer. It also aligns the team around what’s important and helps a rapidly growing organisation stay true to the mission. Lean data on outcomes can later inform deeper customer research.
So if you are interested in social impact consider asking –
“Great pitch, what are you doing to understand and grow your impact?”
Remarkable impact coach, innovation consultant and Director, Social Impact Measurement Network