Identifying Common Performance Criteria

The challenge in creating a common performance framework is that both the concepts of social impact and sustainability are hotly debated and highly subjective.

Hence, in creating a common framework, we have chosen to focus on a set of common criteria that can be simply demonstrated and accepted as being essential to sustainable social impact creation, without pretending to define the full scope of ‘sustainable social impact.’

Performance CriteriaThe framework establishes four common performance criteria that lead to increased sustainability:

Depth of Impact. How effective is the organization at addressing the underlying causes of the social problem? There is no sustainability without deep, lasting impact—solving (not palliating) the social problem should be the end goal.

Blended Value. How effective is the organization at making economic wealth creation and social value creation truly interdependent, so that eventually one cannot exist without the other? There is no sustainability without blended value creation because it is not viable to maintain activities that generate a value deficit.1

Efficiency. How effective is the organization at systematically striving to do more with less? There is no sustainability without efficiency because waste leads to a vicious cycle of resource attrition.

Adaptability. How effective is the organization at adapting to changing conditions? There is no sustainability without adaptability because the inability to negotiate threats and seize opportunities leads to exhaustion and extinction.

We can think of these four performance criteria like the central pieces of a puzzle—if one is missing, we will never arrive at a full picture of sustainability. That said, we do not assume that these performance criteria are all there is to achieving sustainability—our focus has been to identify the common pieces at this stage of development of the social enterprise field.

  • 1. We use the term blended value here as defined by Jed Emerson: “What the Blended Value Proposition states is that all organizations, whether for-profit or not, create value that consists of economic, social and environmental value components—and that investors (whether market-rate, charitable or some mix of the two) simultaneously generate all three forms of value through providing capital to organizations. The outcome of all this activity is value creation and that value is itself non-divisible and, therefore, a blend of these three elements.” Read more about blended value at www.blendedvalue.org