Can you get away with not having an IMF? Sure – pretty much every indie studio does. But they’re not deliberately working towards positive social impact like you are. There are three core reasons you should invest in creating and maintaining an IMF if you are impact-focused:
Your funders – especially social finance investors – will expect tracking and reporting. Your stakeholders (employees, workers, community of players/supporters) expect you to operate and create games that reflect your stated values and goals. Your IMF allows you to identify, assess, and involve these stakeholders.
Resistance to this is understandable! Isn’t this just a capitalist, colonial tool for assigning value? It can be, but you can use it as a tool for yourself and your community instead. This is great to acknowledge and critique as you are developing your IMF. Be explicit about who is centred in your work – it will help you align with the right investors whose priorities are the same as yours. Think about who your stakeholders are. You need to measure different things depending on who they are and what they need. What is important to them?
The results flow identified the impact you want to have in the world and the activities you need to do to achieve that change. But it’s a fairly general tool. Each outcome describes whom you wish to impact and what outcome you hope for. But how do you move from wishes and dreams to making all this happen?
You need to build accountability into your plans. Accountability leads to a deeper analysis of what you are doing to make change, and how your activities actually lead to the changes you expect. Your results flow forms the basis of this accountability.
An IMF allows you to gather evidence that tells you if you are living up to your intentions at any moment – so you can determine if the work you are doing, the audience you are serving, and the games you are designing truly put you on the path to fulfilling your mission. This evidence allows you to see what you’re doing that has a positive impact, and what is ineffective or harmful.
This evidence makes it possible to assess how effective specific strategies are at helping you meet your goals so you can adjust your activities, seek new resources, and better define your expected outputs. It allows you to refine the design of your games and make decisions that directly support your studio’s ultimate outcome.
While there are out-of-the-box applications out there (Sopact, B Impact Assessment, Unit of Impact, Cigarbox, CSI Impact Dashboard), there’s no universal standard framework or set of metrics for social impact. Systems such as [IRIS+](https://iris.thegiin.org(https://iris.thegiin.org/) (which provides a taxonomy of standardized definitions) can be used for inspiration but can be overwhelming and hard to implement for a small studio. We’re going to go the custom route instead.
We believe your framework – just like your outcomes – should be carefully designed around your needs and desired outcomes, and heavily informed by the full spectrum of your stakeholders and community (including your employees!).