Essays on People, Place & Purpose

Investing in What Works for America's Communities

Introducing The Social Impact Calculator 2.0

by Admin

Last year, the Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) launched the Social Impact Calculator, a free and open source tool to assess the social impact of community investments. Since then, we have received numerous questions about the tool, and have also learned about other efforts to measure impact. We appreciate and have been excited by this dialogue, and the fact that our work seemed to have struck a chord. Through these experiences, we gained insight into the unique offerings of the calculator—as well as how it could be improved. Now, we are pleased to announce the launch of a new version of the Social Impact Calculator, available online at www.liifund.org/calculator.

First, to recap: the Social Impact Calculator uses an “impact by proxy” approach that leverages social science research in four sectors—affordable housing, quality child care, education, and community health clinics—to translate basic project data into forward projections of monetary social value. This approach to impact assessment is geared toward case-making and communication with new audiences—such as forming a common language for cross-sector work.

The new version of the calculator builds upon this approach and adds several new features, including the ability to calculate an internal rate of social return, select from different social discount rates, analyze multiple areas of impact for a single project, and assess cumulative impact across several projects. The tool also incorporates new research and data. For example, users can now quantify the long-term earnings impacts for children who gain access to affordable housing in low-poverty neighborhoods, as opposed to remaining in higher-poverty areas.

While the Social Impact Calculator is not the right impact assessment tool for all users in all situations, we have heard from many people who appreciate the work we have done to translate compelling research on a range of community interventions into an off-the-shelf and unique tool that is adaptable to a range of purposes. We are proud to have made this contribution to the growing list of interesting tools and the robust dialogue aimed at increasing our sector’s capacity to measure progress and maximize social impact (The Build Health Places Network has compiled a great list of resources here).

We look forward to continuing this important work, and we welcome thoughts and feedback on the new Social Impact Calculator. Connect with LIIF on Twitter (#ImpactCalc) and Facebook to tell us what you think or share ways you can use the calculator in your own work.

By Nancy O. Andrews and Dan Rinzler

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Investing in What Works for America’s Communities is a joint project of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Low Income Investment Fund.

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Funding for this project was generously provided to the Low Income Investment Fund by the Citi Foundation.