Impact & Assessment
In an effort to continuously refine our ability to improve the lives of Colorado's low-income children and families, Gary Community Investments is developing a framework for assessing the impact of our investment portfolio and practices. Our committment to assessment reflects our organizational values of transparency, taking smart risks, humility and working together, and we seek to share what we're learning so that others can apply what's worked for us and avoid what hasn't.
Why Assess Impact?
Reason I. To Learn and Improve Our Practice
If we want to continually improve the value we offer as a community partner, we need to evaluate and continuously improve internal practices. We strive to apply an assessment framework to inform our decision-making process, guide our efforts and assist us in documenting our progress and lessons learned.
Reason II. To Understand Investment- and Portfolio-Level Performance
Regardless of the type of solution we are supporting, from research to direct services to systems change and policy, we seek to track the performance of our investments. We are also building a Total Portfolio Performance Framework to gather information and help us understand the impact created across our entire portfolio of investments from philanthropic to near-market and market-rate investments.
Reason III. To Contribute to the Broader Field Building
Investments to collect data, find effective solutions, and form insights are best leveraged by sharing that information with the broader community. By disclosing evidence of our impact and lessons learned, we hope to encourage other investors to spend their resources more effectively.
Designing for the End Users
Our assessment framework is useful only if it meets the needs of those who are using the information to increase their effectiveness. We will directly engage both internal stakeholders and our investees and grantees in co-designing and utilizing our framework.
Learning by Doing
We aspire to create a learning culture that encourages risk taking and provides a safe space for honest discourse, and we strive to embed assessment and feedback in all routine tasks. We seek to develop a continuous improvement culture that consciously uses assessment, revision and learning to guide the way we plan, manage and operate.
Informed by Best Practices
There are abundant resources and existing frameworks that have been developed to measure and evaluate social performance at the investment and portfolio level. It goes without saying that we will constantly research and review the current state of practice and incorporate methods and approaches that fit our needs.
Building Evidence and Providing Capacity Appropriate to Organizational Readiness
We understand that developing a performance-driven culture requires resources. When needed, we will help build the internal measurement capacity of organizations and support third party evaluation to demonstrate a level of effectiveness that justifies the sustaining and scaling of our investments.
Monitoring Community-Level Change
We recognize there is also a larger environmental context within which children develop. We plan to track and make use of data within our strategy that may be helpful in assessing the many aspects of the built and natural environment that influence childhood development.
Balancing Quantitative with Context
There are subjective considerations that need to be included in our evaluation process and contextual factors, such as politics, economic forces and leadership transitions are often not easily represented by data. We will incorporate constituent voices and place high value on the narrative that surrounds an investment to better understand its impact.