I left yesterday’s post with the mention of action, and action is right where the Khemka Forum moved to by the end of the second day. While Day 1 of the Khemka Forum on Social Entrepreneurship focused on plenaries and making connections within sectors, Day 2 moved into smaller groups, deeper conversations, and creating plans for bridging gaps.
In the track on Performance Metrics, Matthew Nash of Duke University provided a thorough overview of the key trends in social impact measurement. He discussed many trends, including the experimentation with tools and techniques, movement toward common metrics, emphasis on data quality, program evaluation through randomized design, and building robust performance management systems. Mr. Nash also made the important point that outcomes do not equal impact, and that impact is actually the outcome minus what would happen in absence of the program. Organizations often confuse this, thereby inflating the actual impact of their work.
Anant Kumar, CEO of LifeSpring Hospitals, which offer low-cost, high quality maternal and child care, spoke on the enterprise perspective of tracking metrics. One of the key points he made was the value of democratizing data – basically, data needs to be present up, down, and across an organization so that it cannot be manipulated or modified.
Acumen Fund India’s Energy Portfolio Manager Katie Hill spoke on the social investor viewpoint. She pointed out that the real challenge is that metrics must be understandable, inexpensive, and useful. You can read more directly from Katie in the Acumen Fund blog post on metrics. Finally, IFMR‘s Centre for Microfinance Executive Director Justin Oliver wrapped up the panel by elaborating on what gets measured, how it gets measured, and how to interpret the data.
Participants, while eager to learn how to incorporate good data gathering into their organization, also discussed the difficulties around funding data collection and being able to measure data accurately. A general agreement on the value of data and metrics, however, pointed the way forward for experimental systems and reminded everyone the importance of starting small, but starting somewhere.
One of the more unique aspects of this forum were the consultancy clinics, which focused on law & social entrepreneurship, effective stakeholder communication, getting investment ready, and new forms of knowledge creation. Matthew Nash led a dynamic consultancy clinic on knowledge creation, which I attended with the interest of understanding how TC-I could continue to serve as a platform for newly created knowledge. The small group consisted of both academics and practitioners, allowing both sides to voice their perspectives and then discuss how to bridge existing gaps. Mr. Nash started with the basic question of what action research agenda is needed to advance the field of social entrepreneurship in India. While case study development is common, practitioners were concerned about the lack of usefulness for their organizations, as well as the large amount of time needed to share this knowledge. The group discussed how to create collaborative research, use online networking forums, and engage students via practicums or internships. As time spilled over into lunch, the clinic participants formulated a plan on how to move forward after the forum and ensure continued dialogue on this important issue.
Building an ecosystem
At the beginning of this event, speakers placed emphasis on building an ecosystem for social entrepreneurs in India. The Khemka Forum was a bold attempt to convene the right players to do just that. As a starting point, it was great to see the enthusiasm and seriousness with which participants approached this task. Discussion and action will continue well beyond the Forum, and I’m hopeful in witnessing the creation of a more enabling environment for social entrepreneurs in India. At the end of the day, there are investors, entrepreneurs, academics, donors, and the wider community who want to see innovative, market based solutions make a deep impact on India’s social issues. With the efforts of all these stakeholders, and a concerted effort to bring others into the fray (from government to lawyers to media), the Khemka Forum is indeed a catalyst for accelerating the business of social change.