The story so far

The Common Approach is an evolving story about the growing the impact measurement community in Canada.

Social purpose organizations are at the centre of the Common Approach so that every organization can tell their story of impact in a meaningful way. The Common Approach is making it possible to have a flexible standard that works for funders and impact investors – and that works for people working toward beneficial social and environmental impact in Canada.

Common Approach Updates

Get the latest news and updates on the four Common Approach standards. 

In 2015, the Government of Ontario conducted a series of consultations that resulted in Ontario’s Social Enterprise Strategy. Following that, The Social Enterprise Measurement Task Force convened to inform the development of an impact measurement plan. The Task Force recommended a path forward: the Common Approach to Impact Measurement.

A flexible standard for impact measurement

What makes the Common Approach different is that it is a flexible standard. The notion of “anything goes” means that there’s no “right way” to identify impact measurement indicators. The standard makes it possible to map the impact data in a way that creates sets of aggregated impact. So it is possible to communicate with a wide variety of collaborators and  to evaluate and improve impact. A flexible standard supports a community of practice, which means that social purpose organizations can lead the way on social impact measurement.

There are three things the Common Approach holds as the key to social impact measurement. First, a surprising and recurring finding from people who study standards is that flexibility is needed to allow a standard to survive. Secondly, standards are communities, not documents. It’s about building collective action that sees the benefit and brings harmony to what we’re doing. Finally, the third thing is to make it possible for it to be adopted. Meet people where they are – and ratchet up the rigour later.

Adoption has to be easy, but simple is hard. It requires bringing together the collective knowledge and creating a movement of social purpose organizations, data platforms, funders and impact investors, trainers and consultants. We are making a fresh start by building on work that’s been happening for decades. The Common Approach is research-based and evidenced informed. However, it’s also a community-driven effort to make it possible to develop a standard that works for social purpose organizations and their funders and investors.

Timeline: Looking back, moving forward.

July 2020

Common Impact Data Standard

The latest version of the Common Impact Data Standard is released. Another milestone toward making sharing impact data easier. Led by Mark Fox at the Centre for Social Services Engineering at the University of Toronto.


June 2020

National Advisory Group Expansion

New members added across Canada to the National Advisory Committee providing feedback and advice on the Common Approach.


May 2020

Transitional Governance Group Formed

The Common Approach established a Transitional Governance Group to chart the next phase of the Common Approach and set up a permanent governance structure.


May 2020

User Group Analysis Report

Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC) assessed, documented and reported the reactions of a diverse group of social purpose organizations following their interactions with the Common Approach elements.

May 2020

First Champions Named

Common Approach Champions are a group of impact-oriented evaluators, trainers and consultants are working with social purpose organizations that are aligning with the Common Foundations.


April 2020

Common Foundations Self-Assessment Tool Launched

The self-assessment tool covers the five essential practices that are common among many impact measurement tools and frameworks. By answering “yes” or “no”, organizations are able to see if they are meeting the minimum standard of impact measurement.


December 2019

Common Foundations Training Videos Released

The Social Enterprise Institute released the Common Foundations video series featuring the essential practices that help social purpose organizations reach the minimum standard of impact measurement.


Fall 2018

Social Funders Advisory Board Appointed

The Social Funders Advisory Board is convened by Tessa Hebb, Distinguished Research Fellow, Carleton Centre for Community Innovation. The Board informs the Common Approach through the lens of social finance, investing and grantmaking.


Fall 2018

Social Enterprise Advisory Group Appointed

July 2018

Common Approach Launch

The Common Approach is funded by the Government of Ontario and by the Government of Canada.


Read More

Summer 2017

Social Impact Measurement Road Show

KPMG conducts Ontario-wide consultations with over 70 stakeholders in Ontario’s social enterprise community on the action plan towards a common approach to impact measurement.

October 2016 to March 2017

Social Enterprise Impact Measurement Task Force

Consultations were hosted with over 70 stakeholders in Ontario’s social enterprise community. These included non-profit, for-profit and co-operative social enterprises, social enterprise intermediaries, funders and investors, academics, and government.


June to October 2016

Unpacking Impact Forum & Report

Unpacking Impact: Exploring Impact Measurement for Social Enterprises in Ontario led by the Mowat Foundation examines the concept of common impact measurement frameworks and standardization globally, The findings led to the creation of the Impact Measurement Task Force.



Ontario Social Enterprise Strategy

Led by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Growth. Over 400 stakeholders highlighted the need for improved impact measurement and participated in the consultation to inform the development of the strategy.

STRATEGY 2016-2021

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