T13-Transformational Index

Overview of The Transformational Index

  • Background
  • Four Ways to Promote Sustainable Social Transformation
  1. Choose goals that are consistent with biblical values, and for changes that are needed in the specific cultural setting they’ll be working in.
  2. Build infrastructures that bring integrity between a group’s core values and their project goals.
  3. Evaluate impact through assessing the baseline starting point and periodic change points along the way.
  4. Create a shared vocabulary for talking about social change processes and measuring their “success.”
  • Conclusion

The Quadruple Bottom Line and The Transformational Index: Integrating a System That Works for Good

Tutorial #13 – The Transformational Index

Overview of The Transformational Index

Background

The past few months, I’ve been blogging on practical concepts related to social enterprises. I’ve gotten a few questions from readers about “The Transformational Index” that I’ve mentioned a couple times. It’s not that I’m trying to be secretive, it’s just that The Transformational Index is in beta-test this year, and the system isn’t finalized. So, our team decided not to release much specific information on it yet. Still, when people ask me in person about this project, here’s the essence of the overview I share with them.

The Transformational Index is a project of Matryoshka Haus, an international network of social entrepreneurs who work mostly in the UK, US, and Europe. The past decade or so, we’ve been part of a growing awareness that conventional ways of defining and measuring the “success” of social enterprises (and other initiatives, for that matter) don’t work well in the world as it is emerging. The Transformational Index – or, “The T.I.,” as we often call it – comes from our own attempts to create “success” and evaluate “progress” and “impact” in our own social transformation projects. Our core team (Shannon Hopkins, Andy Schofield, and myself) created The T.I. as a system for planning, evaluating, and communicating about social transformation enterprises.

Four Ways to Promote Sustainable Social Transformation

Basically, this design system for sustainable social transformation will help social/ministry entrepreneurs in at least these four ways:

  • Choose goals consistent with group values.
  • Build infrastructures that integrate the path from values to goals.
  • Evaluate initial and ongoing impact.
  • Create a shared vocabulary for talking about social change and “success.”

1. Choose goals that are consistent with biblical values, and for changes that are needed in the specific cultural setting they’ll be working in.

The T.I. specifies over 90 indicators or elements of social change. These resonate with biblical mandates on what we should be doing and how we should be doing it – qualities like justice, environmental stewardship, compassion, growth, integrity, and humility. We created this set of transformational indicators to mesh with all four elements of the “Quadruple Bottom Line” approach which is already being used for integrated social change. So, The T.I. has indicator goals that benefit people (community), the planet (ecology), profits (economy), and personal transformation (spirituality). We also designed The T.I. broadly enough for application in any of the “Four Social Sectors” of change-oriented projects: government, for-profit (businesses), non-profit (social agencies), and for-benefit (a newer form of hybrid organization that exists to make the lives of others better).

2. Build infrastructures that bring integrity between a group’s core values and their project goals.

Lack of solid structures for carrying out goals is probably one of the most frequent downfalls of social enterprises. And when the strategies and structures fail, usually the sustainability of the results do too. And actually, infrastructures are about values, and values are a crucial part of personal and social transformation. Our values dictate who we should be and what we should do. Those are sometimes called end-state values, and examples are justice, freedom of conscience, and being a creative producer instead of just a passive consumer. Beyond influencing the goals we choose, values shape the practices we use to achieve our end-state goals. Such practices are sometimes called instrumental values, and examples are: being respectful and kind, and listening.

For integrity’s sake, we feel it is important to keep “value-based congruence” in our transformation projects. Simply put, value-based congruence is about the means justifying (declaring righteous) the ends. With The T.I., we can make intentional efforts to match our behaviors with our beliefs, so that the means we use to achieve our goals don’t negate any positive impact of our outcomes. For instance, suppose we say that our project values include working with people from other organizations, but our collaboration actually turns out not to involve anyone from outside our own team. That means the underlying values weren’t really about inclusion and collaboration. So, we need to make a significant adjustment if we truly want to live out integrity, inclusion, and collaboration. The T.I. helps with procedures for building service structures that are consistent with the trajectory between our values and our goals.

3. Evaluate impact through assessing the baseline starting point and periodic change points along the way.

Too often, we only do evaluations long after a project has ended – if at all – when we’re ready to start something else and it occurs to us that we should debrief on what we learned in earlier projects. It may not be too late to learn from previous activities, but why not start out with an intentional plan for establishing a baseline for measuring the direction and degree of change? This requires us to figure out where we are starting from, what measurements to use, and how often to use them. The T.I. indicators provide a process to explore each goal with qualitative and/or quantitative assessments that fit that specific goal. These baseline and periodic evaluations help our team get specific about making observations about the status of our goals and their change indicators. And those details give us more recorded information to track our project’s progress, analyze our results, and interpret our impact. Such information also creates an archive for conserving what we learn in our experiences so that we can discern “best practices” over time, and identity potential “fatal flaws” that will sink future enterprises.

4. Create a shared vocabulary for talking about social change processes and measuring their “success.”

Think about how many different clusters of people are potentially involved in a given social enterprise: shareholders who catalyze the project, funding and sponsoring organizations, volunteers, officials who are required to evaluate the project, media and the general public who may be interested in the activities and their results, and the project beneficiaries themselves. If that weren’t complex enough, consider that each cluster of people likely holds a distinct perspective on what social transformation should be/do, and has different ways of communicating their views about it. At this point in time, there just is no common vocabulary to express what is happening with transformation! No wonder there is confusion about social enterprises and their success – we have multiple “takes” on everything, but they don’t integrate into any kind of cohesive picture. However, we trust that The T.I. will give various parties involved in social change some common ground and shared language for talking about it – both in terms of the general systems of change, and the specifics of social change projects.

Conclusion

From all we know so far, it looks like The T.I. will be unique in social enterprise systems. It blends both quantitative and qualitative perspectives for social entrepreneurs to implement important goals in their team’s enterprises. And, it’s not really just another tool. It’s more of a holistic system, a way to develop an organizational culture for catalyzing change that creates sustainable outcomes. I know I’m looking forward to the results of beta-testing The T.I., and revising it so it’s ready for release! So, stay tuned …

Brad Sargent, Core Member

The Transformational Index Team

Spring 2010

P.S. Watch for updates once The Transformational Index has been revised after beta-testing and is available for broader usage. Meanwhile, the following article was written in September 2011 to explore how the Quadruple Bottom Line and The T.I. mesh.

The Quadruple Bottom Line and The Transformational Index:

Integrating a System That Works for Good

A growing number of business and social enterprise leaders have been captivated by two grand ideals found in a “Quadruple Bottom Line” (QBL). The first ideal is to “work for good” by implanting benefit, when it comes to promoting the welfare of four core layers in society: community, ecology, economy, and spirituality. The second ideal is the complement of the first: to work for good by preventing the infliction of harm.

Both of these ideals for social wellness have a long-standing basis in Western society. They go back in our shared history at least as far as the Hippocratic Oath. That guiding document for medical workers was written about 2,500 years ago. In those days, doctors served in the tradition of physicians-as-generalists. They arrived for a home visit with their ancient equivalent of the modern “doctor’s black bag” of basic medical tools. They observed carefully and considered all signs and symptoms in order to diagnose the source of their patients’ problems. Then they treated the person as holistically as possible. This put doctors in a position of power in people’s lives, and the Hippocratic Oath served as a guide for the ethics of how to encourage health and healing without performing any actions that would create harm.

For those of us involved in promoting social health and preventing social harm, the Quadruple Bottom Line offers a great theoretical framework for guiding our activism. We can consider our plans and goals more holistically, and become more intentional about working for good for people, the planet, profits, and personal/social transformation. But how do we develop a QBL mindset? What tools are available for equipping us as social change agents? How do we translate QBL ideals into transformational actions – how do we build an integrated Quadruple Bottom Line system?

That issue of systems is crucial. To sustain social change, a QBL system has got to be more than just a set of concepts or a systematic checklist with to-do items in each quadrant. It will take much more than just mindfulness and intuition to catalyze social benefit without accidentally creating a catastrophe. We need a wise and intentional system that brings together a broad combination of values that inherently motivate people toward the kinds of concrete, specific outcomes that consistently make a constructive impact.

And that is where The Transformational Index (T.I.) comes in. Quadruple Bottom Line is a great concept, but it is too vague on its own. The T.I. uses a set of over 50 specific “indicators” that embody the values always found at the very core of a social benefit/no harm system. Each indicator embodies a particular kind of outcome goal or how-to process that brings transformation to the organization itself or to the host group or culture in which it works.

For instance, in ecology, QBL actions would include reducing our carbon footprint and replacing critical natural resources. Related T.I. issues like “holism” and “responsible consumption” focus on increasing our awareness about the interrelationship of all living organisms, and reinforcing our conscience about how our actions impact that living system. Anyone could implement QBL environmental impact metrics. But it takes a T.I. mindset to sustain a low-impact system over time, because The T.I. details the “why” and “how-to” that extend the QBL “what-to-do” items from individual actions into an integrated system.

The T.I. also provides a strategy and infrastructure of processes and procedures consistent with QBL values. The T.I. processes and indicators guide a group through all the essential steps in bringing abstract QBL ideas into concrete social reality: planning, implementation, evaluation, review, and revision. A business or social enterprise or faith-based ministry or political campaign that uses The T.I. can always add specific kinds of goals and outcomes. But The T.I. still provides a viable infrastructure framework to hang our goals on, keep us organized, and spur us toward mindfulness.

Brad Sargent, September 2011