The past year was probably a time of turmoil and transformation for you. It certainly was for me.

Budworm in its chrysalis (image: wirestock)

I have changes to share. Even though I know there are more to come, it’s time to make them public. Time to break the chrysalis.

1. My name is Mer. You probably know me as Mary. Last spring, I changed my name to Mer (pronounced “mair”). It’s a more accurate reflection of my gender and its meaning (sea or ocean) has calm and powerful associations for me. My pronouns are still she/her.

2. Do Big Good has pivoted. In the before-times, Do Big Good focused on impact measurement and evaluation. …

Evaluation has often collaborated with racism, plutocracy, neocolonialism, and genocide. We must end our collusion.

Where power dynamics are unequal, measurement is just another means of control. (image by Francis Galton, 1883)

A History of Harm

About six months ago, I decided to write a history of impact measurement, the means by which the benefits and harms of social change work are assessed. It seemed innocent enough. I’d get more insight into the field in which Do Big Good was working and hopefully pick up some useful frameworks and methods along the way.

Impact measurement as I knew it was a world of nerdy altruists like myself — researchers and consultants drawing up logic models and theories of change, identifying indicators and metrics, collecting and analyzing data, collaborating with nonprofits and businesses, assessing whether social change…

The US wasn’t discovered, it was designed. It can be redesigned too.

A historic painting of the Continental Congress with red dots covering the faces of most of the individuals depicted.
A historic painting of the Continental Congress with red dots covering the faces of most of the individuals depicted.
People-owners of the Continental Congress, by Arlen Parsa (original by John Trumbull)

In September of 2019, the documentary filmmaker Arlen Parsa posted a striking image on his Twitter feed. It was an altered copy of Declaration of Independence, a painting created almost 100 years ago. The painting shows a group led by Thomas Jefferson presenting a draft to the Continental Congress. The date is July 4, 1776.

He put a dot over every delegate who owned people…. nearly 75%.

Parsa’s alteration turned the painting from a hall of fame into a rogues’ gallery. He put a red dot over every delegate who owned people. …

It’s our ongoing response that matters, both my response as a white founder and Do Big Good’s response as an organization.

Peaceful protesters prepare to march for Black lives in Seattle on June 3rd. (source: Mer Joyce)

Over the last several days, I’ve struggled to find the right words to respond to this crisis. But it’s not this public statement that matters. It’s what comes after. It’s our ongoing response that matters, both my own response as a white founder and Do Big Good’s response as a mostly white organization. Below is only the beginning of my reflections and commitments to make Do Big Good a more effective anti-racist organization.

First and foremost, I mourn the deaths of George Floyd, Charleena Lyles, David McAtee, and the many other BIPOC (Black/Indigenous People of Color) murdered in the name…

The world was in crisis before COVID-19. What happens to all those other causes now?

Leaders in the social sector must identify actions that meet both the immediate needs of this crisis and the long-term goals of their movements. (Quentin Monge)

A World With One Cause

Yesterday, I was talking to a friend who works for an environmental nonprofit. She described how her team was re-assessing every element of their strategy in the face of COVID-19.

Entire strategies need to change, and in a matter of days, not weeks or months.

For her organization, it is not only their youth training that needs to be canceled. It is also possible their government campaigning will need to stop. Will officials pay attention to environment issues in the midst of a public health disaster?

Crisis is Intersectional

The scale and pace of adaptation required of nonprofit leaders and activists is overwhelming…

Beneficiaries are the experts on their own neighborhoods and their own lives. It makes sense to include them in evaluation.

Everybody into the (impact measurement) pool! (image: AllGo)

Different Needs…Same Metrics?

We measure impact because we want to account for benefits and prevent harms. But different stakeholders in the impact value chain have different needs:

INVESTORS and DONORS deciding between opportunities need to compare and evaluate impact.

SOCIAL ENTERPRISES and NONPROFITS trying to create benefits and avoid harms need to manage impact.

BENEFICIARY communities directly affected by these impacts need decision-making power to choose projects that have value in their lives.

While it may seem impossible to select metrics that serve all three stakeholder groups, we at Do Big Good believe that’s not the case.

In our last…

Lagging and leading indicators will change the way you measure — and manage — impact.

While leading impact indicators are forward-looking management metrics, lagging impact indicators are backward-looking and evaluative. Both are needed. (image: Freepik)

What is impact?

Social change is hard. In fact, it’s complex. How can we make it easier to create social change? How can we make social change work more likely to succeed?

This article proposes a simplified process for more effective social change work. It proposes using measurement to make better evidence-based decisions toward clearer social change goals. It proposes a system for managing social change work by managing its effects, managing its impacts.

But first — what is impact? In most contexts, an impact is just an effect. In the current context, we means something different:

IMPACT: Benefits, less harms, to people…

What investors and philanthropists need to know about how social change works.

Social change goals are broader than commercial goals, but individuals have less control over outcomes. (image: EFF)

Impact investors and donors want to use capital to serve humanity and the planet. But what does funding this kind of change actually mean?

Believe it or not, running a social enterprise or nonprofit is harder than running a startup.

Social change is complex and unpredictable. Investors and donors want the predictability of a particular outcome or return. As a result, they think small, funding what is predictable rather than what is transformative. Here’s how those dynamics work.

What Investors and Donors Want

An argument for adaptation-based strategy and funding in social change work // by Mary Joyce

You Are Not a Failure

Receiving the results of an impact evaluation that shows less impact than expected can be tough. It can feel like failure. But it isn’t. It’s only that we don’t know what to do next. And what we do next is adapt.

It’s time to move from a Failure Paradigm (evaluation is the end) to an Adaptation Paradigm (evaluation is the beginning).

Switch Your Paradigm

It’s time to move from the Failure Paradigm (evaluation is the end) to an Adaptation Paradigm (evaluation is the beginning).

The Failure Paradigm in profoundly backward-looking. It stops at evaluation. It operates as a post-mortem, seeking to understand what…

Do Big Good

participatory design for social change //

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