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Making Impact Work for Startups: the iKPI Playbook

In 2015, the UN released 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an urgent call for governments, businesses, and organizations to align efforts towards “a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet.” As business leaders, it is past time to assume our share of this indispensable responsibility. We cannot rely solely on governments and large organizations to act without our support.

The biggest problems of humanity can and must be solved by entrepreneurs, who are currently the most effective catalysts for change in the world. We are therefore calling on entrepreneurs to form “Impact Companies” that address SDGs such as eradicating extreme poverty, ending world hunger, and achieving gender equality. To be successful, we believe entrepreneurs should weave sustainability into a concept we all understand - KPIs. That’s why we’ve come up with “impact” KPIs, or iKPIs. 

The Founder Institute has put together a free Progress Planner tool to search and generate iKPIs, as well as a playbook for startup founders to work towards becoming an Impact Company through realistic, trackable steps. To help guide entrepreneurs, we will provide supporting resources, including practical iKPI recommendations, real-life applications and metrics, and example case studies, through 10 key steps - this post is #3 in that 10-part series.

Last week in the second part of this series on Making Impact Work for Startups, we discussed the topic getting your team onboard with impact initiatives—this post is part three - so if you haven’t already, we recommend you read part one first.


How to track your progress: iKPIs & measuring impact


Background 

Research shows that setting goals actually restructures mental processes, which can increase chances of success. By converting sustainability challenges into specific goals and metrics, it becomes much more achievable.

Now that your company has a clearer idea of what goals you want to work together to meet, the next step is to put in place metrics to track progress, and agree on reporting processes for your  internal team and external community. 

Chances are your startup already has plenty of its own metrics, methods, and tools that you use in your day to day activities. So rather than reinventing the wheel, first look at how you can adapt your existing tools or processes to track any of your proposed iKPIs, in the same way as you would track any other business metric.

Action Points 

Before you set your sights on future goals, it is important to have a clear eyed understanding of what your “ground zero” truly stands. Take an honest look at the current state of your business and your  total impact - both the good, and the areas in need of improvement.

The next step is to make an estimation of where you would like to be within a period of 6 or 12 months, and then within 2 to 3 years.

It is important to be consistent in the metrics that you will be tracking. Use the free For Progress planner tool to search and generate example iKPI metrics across all SDG subgoals in the database.


Case Study Example 1: GrowForMe 

  • GrowForMe (FI Accra) is an agricultural crowdfunding platform that allows farmers to scale up their growing operations, and for its investors to earn a fair profit via micro-lending. 
    • Founder & CEO Nana Prempeh has developed a clear theory for impact, based upon the ~70% of growers in Africa are smallholder farmers, who each farm only ~1-5 acres on average. Through GrowForMe supplying access to mechanical plowing services, farmers both save on backbreaking labor, and can immediately increase their potential farmed acreage, by up to 10-15 acres per farm. 
    • Tracking progress towards the company’s impact offers clear options in this case, as GrowForMe tracks a range of relevant metrics, from number of smallholder farmers using the platform, to the amount of micro-lending invested with their farmers, to increases in acreage farmed, as well as the sales figures for seasonal crop contracts facilitated to buyers through their platform.
    • iKPI potential options to track may include:
      • iKPI 1.4.3: Number of poor, and vulnerable living with increased access to microfinance.
      • iKPI 2.1.1: Increased efficiency of logistical supply chains in agriculture which ensure access to markets and affordable food.
      • iKPI 8.2.1: Increase real GDP per employed person in developing countries.

Case Study Example 2: Oddbox 

  • Oddbox (FI London) is the United Kingdom's first sustainable fruit and vegetable box delivery service, rescuing odd and surplus fruit and veggies directly that supermarkets turn away, typically because they don’t meet strict cosmetic or consumer quality requirements. Oddbox raised a £3M funding round in March 2020 for its UK-wide rollout, and was recently featured in the Economist for rescuing 18 tons of salad greens from growers, who pre-covid normally supplied the food exclusively to restaurants. 
    • The mission of Oddbox is very clearly aligned toward tackling food waste and fostering conscious consumerism—because each box is full of ‘odd’ fruits and vegetables, often otherwise discarded by agricultural producers. 
    • iKPI potential options to track may include:
      • iKPI 2.1.1: Increased efficiency of logistical supply chains in agriculture which ensure access to markets and affordable food.
      • iKPI 2.4.1: Increased the proportion of agricultural area using productive and sustainable agricultural practices as a percentage of total agricultural area. 
      • iKPI 11.3.1: Decrease per capita land and resource consumption rate.


Next in this series on Implementing iKPIs and making impact work for startups, we explore how to look at customers and markets to contextualize product impact potential—because iKPIs measured as downstream effects may track with a measurable and scalable Product/Impact fit, even for 'normal' companies not exclusively focused on impact.

*  *  *

The Founder Institute believes we cannot rely solely on governments and big organizations to fix the world's problems - the time is now for entrepreneurs to also do their part.

Use our free For Progress planner to search iKPIs (Impact Key Performance Indicators) by keyword, or browse iKPIs by the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. Don't be intimidated by seemingly impossible impact metrics - instead, find specific SDGs that your business can positively influence.

Try the Progress Planner tool at FI.co/Progress, or learn more startup impact initiatives across the FI global network at FI.co/Impact

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