TSI partner Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien organised the 13th Day of Non-Profit Organisations in Austria on June 1st, bringing together researchers and national third sector stakeholders. The event, titled “From performance society to impact society” focussed on the social impact of third sector activities. TSI’s Ruth Simsa represented TSI in her presentation “Measuring the unmeasurable: insights to a European research project”.
Austrian stakeholders showed a critical view on impact measurement. There was an intense discussion if resources invested in the measurement and the monetarization of impact were not used more effectively if invested directly in social services, human rights activities and other fields of TSI work. Some also critizised a strict orientation on measurable impacts, fearing that advocacy and other political activities would not be adequately represented. As the trend towards impact measurement is perceived to be strongly driven by investors like big foundations discussants interpreted it as a consequence of economization as well as rising inequalities regarding the distribution of income and wealth. One participant said: „If more and more money is in the hands of investors instead of public authorities, their interests, values and business strategies influence the sector without democratic control. Impact measurement might be one aspect of this development.“
Presented with TSIs definition of the third sector, which includes entities with restricted profit-making, Austrian stakeholders reacted critically. They see it as another sign of economization of the third sector. Austrian law applies a very strict nonprofit constraint.
Olivia Rauscher and Christian Schober, co-author of TSI Working Paper “Methodological Guideline to Impact Assessment” led a workhop on “How to monetarize Impact”, introducing the “impact box” as methodological tool for impact measurement. Participants had a lively discussion on putting a financial value to non profit activity. On the one hand it is seen as an important approach to show the important and diverse impacts of the third sector. On the other hand there is concern about the resources needed to do so as well as about potential biases.
Another workshops covered the issue of impact-oriented controlling of NPOs, discussing TSI’s contributions to controlling, strategic management and operative assessment of processes. „This gives you the necessary information for controlling your organization not only based on ressources and inputs but oriented towards the effects you want to achieve.”