There are different measurement approaches for impact, but we will make an effort to create two main categories.
Scoreboard vs Process-based approaches
The first category are process-based approaches, with the most common being the “Theory of Change”. Here you have to identify a link between your activities (what do you do?) and the change (“impact”) that you achieve.
A theory of change is more complex than simple scorecard approaches, but it seems to be gaining more ground in the field of impact measurement and can potentially be more reliable for estimating start-ups’ impact.
The second category is based on scoreboard approaches, where depending on the tool/methods where you are asked to evaluate your performance.
This can be sometimes a challenge as in the early stages of a start-up, there is not a lot of achievements to evaluate, but it can also be used to reflect on potential score. In this way, you can assess different business models or strategic choices you plan to make.
Below we present 3 free of charge scorecard approaches that can be more appropriate for start-ups.
The Borderstep Institute (in collaboration with GreenUp Invest) has developed a very useful scorecard approach, that is available as a PDF document via this link. It is one of the few approaches that has been specifically developed for startups.
This Pdf manual covers the aspects a) business context, b) startup team c) business concept and d) product and services and allows creating an overall score.
The Center for Social Innovation at Stanford University has developed a useful tool that may be used to get a quick scan for new projects, startups, investment opportunities, strategic decisions etc.
You can either use it to score a current situation (achievement), but it may be most relevant for scoring the sustainability impact potential for some time in future.
The “Impact Compass” has 6 dimensions which include “value to society” (i.e. how important is the problem you address?), “efficacy” (i.e. do you know whether your activity will really contribute to solving the problem?), “impact magnitude” (i.e. how much of the problem can you solve?) or “scalability” (i.e. how many people benefit from your activities?).
The B-Impact Assessment is currently probably the leading sustainability impact scorecard approach and is something that can be helpful for startups.
The tools focuses at current achievements, rather than impact potential and for some startups in their early stages, some of the questions might not be relevant. However it can provide insights for the future.