Certain challenges are endemic to all forms of social entrepreneurship; impact measurement and evaluation is one of these big challenges. Sometimes what seems like a great idea to solve a social or environmental problem fails—or worse, it does more harm than good. How do we know whether a program really works? How do we differentiate between programs that are backed up with strong evidence, as opposed to the ones that just have great PR? What kinds of evidence do we need to see? How do we differentiate between outputs and actual outcomes?
The stories in this collection include evidence-based interventions across different settings and levels of scope. Two examine policy interventions: one features a re-thinking of how we do townhall meetings in an effort to elevate our political discourse, while another explores a Louisiana alternative school serving at risk students. The other three stories measure environmental impacts, ranging from measures as small as altering house cats behavior to save local wildlife, to an intervention intended to save Africa's largest rainforest from deforestation.
Click here to explore other articles in the StoryTracker!
- In the story about the alternative school in New Orleans, why does The NET receive a low grade according to ratings by the Department of Education, despite boasting a graduation rate of 85%?
- Testimonials, anecdotes, and case studies are often used as evidence of impact. In the story about the alternative school in New Orleans, is that type of evidence enough to justify continuing, expanding or replicating the program? Why or why not? In the longer term, what types of data might this program use to assess impact?
- After reading the three environmental impact articles, explain the similarities and differences between the techniques used to measure impact regardless of the scale and location of the intervention.
- Even with compelling evidence, sometimes interventions aren't implemented because funding runs out or policy or politics get in the way. Do you think the intervention described in An Evidence-based Way to Help Fix our Broken Politics will actually be implemented? Why or why not?
- Create a collection using stories in the StoryTracker about a solution to an issue you are passionate about. Drawing on what you have learned from reading the stories in this collection, come up with a strategy to assess the impacts of the programs in your collection.
- Journalism is a collaborative practice: reporters are writing for their community, but they also depend on community members as sources for information. Indeed, the very purpose of journalism, according to the American Press Institute, is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. With that in mind, SJN wants to help connect news readers and journalists. Beside the name of the journalist on any of our story pages or the results page of the Solutions Story Tracker, you’ll find a Twitter icon that will link you directly to the journalists profile. Tweet at them with questions or compliments about their piece - you might be surprised by how much writers want to engage with their audiences! Don’t forget to tag us too (@soljourno) and use the hashtag #journalistintheclassroom if you are reading as part of an academic assignment.
- The NET’s reported graduation rate includes students who take more than four years of graduate, whereas the Department of Education measures based on more traditional four-year metrics. Educators with the alternative school argue that all schools should not be held accountable by the same rigid set of measures. For instance, The NET offers many resources outside of the classroom.
- In this example, anecdotes and testimonials from students at the school might differ from the picture painted simply using the Department of Education’s metrics for schools. The article also explains that The NET serves as a model that other schools in the state look to reflect. Encourage students to think about the ways in which school metrics could be assessed to better reflect the outcomes at The NET. Also, what types of data could be collected from students after they graduate to determine whether the program works in the long term?
- Responses will vary; comparative data is generally a solid indicator of a response's success and is used in all three articles.
- While the studies discussed in the article about fixing Congressional townhall meetings received positive feedback, the author concedes that changing the behavior of Congress members won’t occur instantly.
- Responses will vary! For more on creating collections, click here. For more on Success Factors, click here.