Sarah Stamatiou Nichols
Director of Research and Impact
Impact Hub
Challenges and insights on impact measurement - Impact Hub
Theme agnostic, all 17 SDGs are being addressed
2.5 Mio (2017)

The effort to better understand the impact of Impact Hub as a community has been ongoing for about 6 years. Many challenges were faced such as: how to move from impact measurement to impact management, capacity issues and how to connect the tracked results to the SDGs. Over the years measures like engagement campaigns were put in place that support members to share their data and ensure for a smooth process of annual data collection.

Impact Hub is one of the world’s largest community (16,000+ members) and accelerator for positive change. With 100+ locations across five continents, in more than 50 countries, we have the local startup communities needed to fuel and mobilize amplified innovation. Impact Hub builds community for impact at scale.

What were the challenges faced by Impact Hub when the network created its measurement process? (if we don’t have that info, you can mention the general challenges that are normally there, based on your experience)

Since 2013 Impact Hub, together with the Social Entrepreneurship Center at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, conducts an annual survey across its global membership to understand the impact of member entrepreneurs, their support needs, and the overall health of our communities. In 2015 the Impact Hub Network agreed on a joint theory of change (ToC) and further deepened the ToC with a network impact logic. Both serve as frameworks for impact and put the networks’ activities and outputs into context. The  Impact Hub Network adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2017 as a lens to capture the impact of its members and network. With the growth of Impact Hub’s entrepreneur support programs business line – over 200 entrepreneur acceleration programs were offered in 2017 – the measurement of the impact of program participants and program evaluations are gaining in importance. Working together on entrepreneur support and collecting and sharing impact data in a standardized manner, can give insights into the effectiveness and quality of entrepreneur support programs, and improve them.


Moving from impact measurement to impact management: The Impact Hub network has a theory of change, impact logic, data collection tools through annual member and staff surveys, basic processes to evaluate trans-local programs, and dedicated staff for impact measurement. Much effort is put on capacity building and sharing data back with local Impact Hubs through global, regional, and local reports, visualizations of insights, and deep dives into specific topics. Nevertheless comparatively a lot of resources are being taken up by data collection, and less are available for analysis and insights. Moving from collecting data and measurement, to managing impact and using data for deep learning is a necessary next evolution.

Capacity constraints: Impact measurement is resources intensive. It requires a specific skill set, time, and money. Like many start-ups, also local Impact Hubs face competing priorities and operate under tight capacity. Participating in the annual global member survey requires Impact Hubs to mobilize their membership through a month-long communication campaign. Similarly, the thorough analysis of impact data and translation of results into reports that bring insights back to the community requires resources. 

Measuring the contribution of impact outcomes to the SDGs: Similarly to other organizations in the sector, Impact Hub wants to move from SDG engagement to SDG measurement.  Members are being mapped to the SDGs through our annual member survey and insights complemented with additional impact data. Our focus now lies on deepening understanding and measurement of the most prominent impact outcomes and SDGs among our membership.

Measuring network impact: Impact Hub is a theme-agnostic global network for impact. Some of the impact that is being created by the network relates to social enterprises and can be measured through our current systems. However, Impact Hubs also create systemic impact by growing, often even starting, social enterprise ecosystems in their local contexts. At the local, regional, and global level Impact Hubs contribute to the mobilization and aggregation or resources for social impact and make the movement towards sustainable business and social impact more visible. These types of system or network impacts are harder to capture and measure but are nonetheless part of Impact Hub’s impact logic and ToC. 


What were the solutions implemented to create a good process (must-have/nice to have, how you get members to complete the surveys? etc.)?

Support local survey leads: Data collection through the Annual Global Member Survey is managed by Impact Hub company and executed by local Impact Hubs. Impact Hubs appoint local survey leads. These survey leads receive communication and support from Impact Hub company and also can learn from and support each other. 

Member engagement campaigns: Data collection requires engagement with members. In order to best support Impact Hubs, they receive globally designed communication materials that can be edited and translated to suit local needs. They also receive an engagement toolkit, outlining best practices on member engagement from across the network and examples for how Impact Hubs can use the data. Member engagement can reach from sending out personal invitations for participation, to hosting community events that center around food and completing the survey together, and much more.

Incentives and friendly competition: Globally we raffle 2 entrepreneurial stipends per year among all respondents. Local Impact Hubs also offer incentives ranging from reduced memberships to prizes. Incentives can help stimulate engagement, but will have to be embedded in a broader strategy. In some years, Impact Hubs also compete around the number of responses collected and can engage their community in the competition to make their voice heard.

Results: It is most important to show respondents that their time and information actually has an impact. Highlighting how results will be used and following up on that promise is key to obtain responses from members over the years.

What are the relevant insights you could share on setting KPIs and data analytics?

Before setting any indicators or KPIs you need to know what outcomes you are trying to achieve. A theory of change or logic model can serve as a framework to articulate your impact. On the basis of outputs and outcomes, you can then set indicators and define how you plan to measure your progress towards these goals. 


For a variety of reasons, not every organization, especially early-stage startups, might be able to start with a detailed framework. However, you need to have an idea of your vision and what you are trying to achieve with your activities. Impact Hub had a clear vision, mission, and core offering when starting its impact measurement. The theory of change, impact logic framework, and commitment to the SDGs were developed later and helped further clarify the impact we are aiming to create and to put measurement into context.


When thinking about measurement frameworks and KPIs, some simple rules of thumb are:

  • Start by defining your target group and the positive change you are aiming to create for them.
  • Review existing research and evidence on measuring the outcomes that you are trying to achieve with your activities. This will improve your offering and give you direction in defining a measurement approach.
  • As much as possible, make use of standardized indicators, measurement systems, and frameworks such as IRIS, the B Impact Assessment, and the Impact Management Project.
  • Set up a process and structure for regular data collection.
  • Analyze and review results regularly and iterate and test activities based on your results. As a social enterprise working with beneficiaries, your impact measurement can provide important user data and provide insights for product and service design and improvement.
What are the relevant insights you could share making measurement serve storytelling and the improvement of activities? How Impact Hub uses the results?

For our impact measurement, we heavily rely on quantitative data. These numbers and data points are important to demonstrate proof of our work and impact. In order to make insights tangible, it is ideal to complement quantitative data with qualitative data and stories of members and Impact Hubs.

Globally we use the results

a) to assess the health and impact of our communities at regional and global level and create learnings and insights across Impact Hubs,

b) for impact measurement and our reporting to funders and partners,

c) to illustrate our impact through publication such as our impact report and community impact report (,

d) to inform our research on the impact of collaboration and community and our programs to support social entrepreneurs.

Locally results can be used for similar reasons. Receiving community feedback, sharing back results, and discussing them with the community is an important part of how data gets used locally.