Where impact measurement meets evaluation: tensions, challenges and opportunities

This article introduces papers from a 2016 forum “Where Impact Measurement Meets Evaluation” co-sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and Social Value International, to discuss the intersection between evaluation and impact measurement.

This resource and the following information was contributed by Kaye Stevens.

Authors and their affiliation

Anne T. Vo: Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Christina A. Christie: Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Key features

The article provides an overview of the history of both the evaluation and impact investment fields. While evaluation and impact measurement are described as sharing common roots they have different overarching purposes and have developed in response to different stakeholders and societal demands. The similarities and differences between evaluation and impact measurement are discussed. They differ in terms of funding sources, primary end-users of study results, evaluative approaches, methods and analytic units and in the nature of findings. For example, end-users of evaluations tend to be funders (private and public sector), program staff and tax-paying program beneficiaries. In contrast, private sector funders and social entrepreneurs have influenced the development of impact investment and measurement. As both evaluation and impact measurement inform decision-making ongoing and end of cycle reporting are common practices. The article concludes that the literature suggests a greater emphasis on social and political aspects of determining impact when conducting evaluations compared to impact measurement.

Demand for meaningful data and evidence, analytic capacity and measurement challenges are identified as contemporary issues for both the evaluation and impact measurement fields. Proposed solutions for crossing disciplinary boundaries include creating space for meaningful discourse, including diverse stakeholder perspectives, building intersectional communities of practice and leveraging evaluative thinking.

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

This article may be useful for informing evaluators about the development of the impact investment field and implications for how impact is measured.

Why would you recommend it to other people?

To provide context for evaluators new to working with impact investment organisations


Vo, A. T. and Christie, C. A. (2018). Where impact measurement meets evaluation: tensions, challenges and opportunities. American Journal of Evaluation Vol 39(3), 383-388. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1098214018778813