Ripples of Impact

How do you decide which organization or which initiative deserves your donated funds? How does an organization decide whether the resources it has committed to an initiative are allocated in alignment with the organization’s vision and hoped-for impact? These are important questions that each of us asks when it seems that everywhere we turn there is a meaningful and important cause to support.

Sometimes the answer is provided to us through our own heartfelt compassionate response that motivates us to support a cause based on few details or evidence of effectiveness. However, increasingly we are driven to make these decisions based on documented results that demonstrate measurable impact from the resources that are input to the program. CWEF is committed to continue increasing its capabilities in documenting community context before facilitating our education and health initiatives, monitor changes during the course of a program, and quantify impact at the completion of a program. Because our programs focus on stimulating change that results in local community members taking initiative, impact measurement is not a straightforward task. We need to look for adjustments to peoples’ habits and the locally invested propagation of knowledge to neighboring communities. For example, there is a significant difference in complexity and time needed to collect data between measuring someone’s access to water and measuring the way that person and the person’s family members see improvements in health outcomes and economic improvement because they have access to water.

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Thankfully, CWEF has a growing network of volunteers, starting with University of Michigan School of Information student Claire Barco two years ago, who are focusing their service support in helping CWEF to collect this data through structured household interviews, and organize the data so that it can be analyzed for impact.

In the next year, be watching for more information, especially for the REACH and HEAL programs, indicating how the programs are impacting the lives of program participants as well as the ripple effect that we’ve been able to demonstrate as the people impacted by the project are compelled to share their benefits with others. We look forward to moving from simplified impact and connection diagrams to data points that meaningfully demonstrate to both our beneficiaries and our funding partners the richness of impact from their efforts in striving for thriving communities that serve and inspire hope in others.

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