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Meet the folks who make social impact ideas reality

Equal Measure. May 17, 2016 Category: FeaturedMediumMethod
The social impact conversation is about doing good and doing it well. It’s Center City-based nonprofit Equal Measure’s mission to help organizations make that happen.

The nonprofit was born out of Wharton just over 30 years ago in response to the increasingly complicated social issues arising out of the urban areas such as housing, social mobility, economic opportunity.

Whereas more and more nonprofits and organizations began springing up to tackle those issues, proto-Equal Measure existed to make sure they were maximizing their impact. In broad strokes, that’s still what the nonprofit does today — evaluation services for nonprofits and foundations.

But Equal Measure’s process digs deeper than numbers and spans across issue areas.

“We view our role within an evaluation as a thought partner,” said Seth Klukoff, senior director of communications. That means, more or less, that staff at Equal Measure put themselves on equal playing field with their clients. “We really adhere to the model of what we call the ‘developmental evaluation’ — we’ll provide services and thinking to the client pretty much every step of the way.” 

Staff at Equal Measure — with backgrounds in various expertise, from college access to program development to civic engagement and beyond — work hand-in-hand with clients to help them understand their goals for proposed programs, establish those goals and develop a plan to achieve them.

For example, said Vice President Renée Byng Yancey, let’s say a foundation comes to Equal Measure with a promising idea to change the way single moms find employment by mixing workforce training programs with early childcare provider programs.

If it wants to create a pilot, she said, Equal Measure’s role in the implementation is to advise on the model, guide the staff and evaluate the process. It’s there from “idea to implementation,” and using everything it’s learned to develop reports and recommendations.

"We pride ourselves on considering the many levers social change agents can use to improve the human condition overall."
Renée Byng Yancey

But Equal Measure doesn’t stick to any one issue area. At the moment, it’s simultaneously working on increasing disciplinary diversity in Robert Wood Johnson Foundation programs and increasing life opportunities for boys and men of color with the University of Pennsylvania (two regional examples in a portfolio that spans the country). 

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“We describe our work as very cross-cutting and very interconnected,” said Byng Yancey, who described the nonprofit’s approach to evaluation and assessment as interdisciplinary and systems-based. “You’ll see projects touching a range of different issue areas within broader social sectors. We pride ourselves on considering the many levers social change agents can use to improve the human condition overall.”

Byng Yancey called it a “unique element” of the nonprofit’s work. If an organization wants to impact high school completion or college access, it needs a deeper understanding of the conditions that lead to a student not being able to graduate high school or get into college — food security, economic stability, health access, gun violence. The list goes on.

Look at who else is working on the issue, Byng Yancey said, understand that landscape and identify who’s contributing and in what way. 

“We know there is much rich learning that happens across many outcome areas across broader society,” she said.

Those “outcome areas” are the five buckets by which Equal Measure categorizes its work, including “building human and social capital” and “increasing access and opportunity.”

True to its name, Klukoff said that work is all done through an “authentic equity lens.”

“What we really try to work on with our clients is to make sure that in all these different very distinct and diverse communities, authentic and often underrepresented voices are part of the conversation,” he said. “Their ideas have weight at the table.” 

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