This article shares the experience from the Project Group of “the Social Impact Navigator”, one of the projects implemented under the practical training module in Willy Brandt School of Public Policy’s Master program. The projects enable the participants to practice their knowledge and skills while working with external partners on real-life programs.
Project Partner PHINEO gAG
During the 2016-17 winter semester, the Project Group of “the Social Impact Navigator” cooperated with the external partner PHINEO gAG (www.phineo.org) on the project to disseminate their impact guide at global level. Within four months, the project group, composed of 14 Master Fellows from the Brandt School, strived to spread the useful tool to impact orientation for non-profit organizations (NPOs) internationally—targeting the non-profit sector in 9 regions (Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russia, Taiwan and the United States).
The Social Impact Navigator, conducted by PHINEO with the supports from the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Social Accountability and The Bertelsmann Stiftung, provides useful frameworks and relevant concepts for NPOs to measure their results more effectively, achieve better outcomes and share their work and impact with people all over the world (PHINEO, n.d.; Glogovac, 2016). The German version has been downloaded more than 20,000 times. As the English version becomes available since 2016, the project group hopes to contribute to its visibility across the globe in order to promote effective societal engagement, while learning and analyzing the current the social impact investing landscape.
Under the supervision of Professor Dr. Heike Grimm, the group was able to work independently. Creative ideas were thus generated, leading to the interesting results—in short, different strategies work in different regions. Utilizing various strategies, we achieved around 900 downloads of the Social Impact Navigator worldwide.
Exploring Different Dissemination Methods
It was not easy works: how can we spread out the concepts of a 100+ pages guide in 9 different regions? It required knowledge about the social sectors in these regions as well as integration of theories with practice.
To disseminate the tool in different regions, the group adopted a multi-strategies approach. After researching literatures of dissemination strategies, we identifying the stakeholders in the local non-profit sectors and then finally various strategies were applied accordingly. Coming from a wide range of countries, the Willy Brandt School Fellows made the most out of their personal networks and knowledge about the local communities.
Through the process, country-specific dissemination methods were applied to different regions, including conducting introductory articles in local languages and promotional webpages in collaboration with interested NPOs, emailing stakeholders, utilizing personal networks, holding interviews, placing Google Ads, offering trainings and many others.
In addition to these country-oriented strategies, general strategies that can be applicable for all countries were also explored. We promoted the Social Impact Navigator through several social media accounts and Google Alerts. Flyers and animation were also designed and presented. Furthermore, a survey was conducted with organizations that have been approached by PHINEO to understand the pervious strategies adopted.
Challenges Faced and Lessons Learned
For most of us, this is the first time to work in a group with such size—coordinating a group of 14 individuals with different characters was not easy, especially when working under little supervision. At the beginning we were unable to agree unanimously on the approaches and task divisions, and not even on the objectives of the project. Yet, solutions were found after effective communication and everyone contributed to the project in their ways with different specialties, respecting our mutually determined goals. The experience taught us the importance of shared visions, missions and objectives while working in a group.
Regarding the dissemination process, the group encountered several challenges as well—the language barriers and cultural differences made it difficult to reach our goals. In most countries, an adapted version integrated with local languages and culture is desirable. Legislation and governmental supports are of high importance in some countries; while some preferred explanations and practical trainings in person. These challenges helped us to improve future disseminations and to provide recommendations for PHINEO. The practice of dissemination strategies also presented significant knowledge for non-profit projects in general.
Outcomes of the Project and a Conclusion to the Experience
Despite all the difficulties, some of our strategies managed to break the barriers and led to considerable outcomes (about 900 downloads in total, as mentioned above in the article). In general, cooperating with local non-profit organizations and platforms, following with introduction in local languages generated the most positive responses.
Our experience suggested that a dissemination plan should take the cultural differences into consideration, even better if designed from the early stages of the project. There is no one strategy for all countries, regions or communities. Collaborations with local partners and networks are essential for effective results.
To conclude, working in this project offered us the opportunity to practice the works of policy/strategy consultants for non-profits. Through the project we were able to broaden our knowledge of social sectors in different countries as well as to build our personal networks. Furthermore, we have learned to find out the best ways to work with different individuals, figuring out the best positions for different characters.
If interested, you can find more information on the PHINEO project here: https://www.PHINEO.org/themen/social-impact-navigator
Glogovac, M. (2016). New Tools to Measure & Share Your Charitable Impact. CanadaHelps. Retrieved from https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charity-life/ceo-messages/new-tools-to-measure-share-your-charitable-impact/
PHINEO. (n.d.). Doing good – achieving the best! The Social Impact Navigator can help!. Retrieved from https://www.PHINEO.org/themen/social-impact-navigator