Ecotone Analytics hosted a webinar with SVT Group (watch here) about the role of impact management in workforce development organizations. We heard from Ecotone’s Senior Economist Will Nielsen, SVT Group’s Founder Sara Olsen and Opportunity Construction’s CEO and Founder Carl Phinney. 

In this webinar we featured a case study with previous client, Opportunity Construction LLC. Opportunity Construction LLC is a highway construction company that empowers traditionally underserved communities, especially previously incarcerated people, through gainful employment, training, credentialing, mentorship, case management and connection to wraparound services as desired. Here are a few key takeaways from the webinar:

Addressing barriers to success can help maximize the value being created for stakeholders

  • For formerly incarcerated individuals, it can be difficult to find work and especially work that offers decent wages. Opportunity Construction aims to give people opportunities that they would otherwise have difficulty finding and offers additional resources to support success. Within the Opportunity Construction ecosystem, they have programs to address barriers to success that go beyond just providing a job. For example OC Highway helps remove barriers to quality housing. Opportunity Construction’s Carl Phinney notes how important addressing barriers is to maximizing value for stakeholders, including Opportunity Construction’s OJT participants, who see the biggest return. You can read more about Ecotone’s work with Opportunity Construction here

Social return on investment and impact analysis research creates a strong narrative

  • For organizations who prioritize both mission and profit, it can be difficult to demonstrate and measure the value that is being created. For example Carl Phinney brought up the importance of recognizing the double bottom line. Investments in Opportunity Construction weren’t all captured in the bottom line because that is a purely financial measure. This made it hard to impress funders and other investors when trying to communicate Opportunity Construction’s social value, because it was relying on financial value metrics. By using Social Return on Investment and the double bottom line, it was much easier to communicate the value being created by Opportunity Construction. In addition it’s given Carl a way to track the investment that he’s putting into Opportunity Construction in a more applicable way. Now that they have this data they’ve used it as main content in grant writing, and Carl believes that it gave them a stronger case than they would have without it, because the data is hard to argue with. 

SROI is a great tool but making it understandable is even better

  • Sara Olsen has been working in the Impact Management space for over 20 years and recognizes how effective the SROI ratio and numerical value of an output can be. Turning that data, however, into a visual diagram as in Ecotone’s Impact Value Map takes it a step further. It puts the information into an easy to understand and clear format, communicating who the stakeholders are and how they’re being impacted. Beyond being easier to understand, the visualization also creates a more compelling story than a table of numbers. It goes from being interesting but controversial to a place where people understand it, engage with it, and make use of it.

Being aware of and managing your social impact can attract and retain talent 

  • Carl brought up how he was trying to recruit his cousin Wally to join him at Opportunity Construction, and at the time Wally was working there on a temporary basis, but wasn’t sure if he was going to continue. When he saw this research, it cemented the decision to stay because the impact management work was familiar to him and helped him feel empowered when trying to get in front of people such as funders.

If you’re interested in learning more about our work with Opportunity Construction check out this previous blog post 

You can also view the full recording of the webinar here 

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