According to a poll last year for the European Commission, almost seven in 10 EU citizens believe tackling poverty in developing countries should be one of its main priorities.

While this signals positive public support for the work of aid and development agencies around the world – and for the prominent role of EU countries in funding existing development work – there is a challenge in translating this support into action.

Most organisations, both public and private, have to justify their programmes to taxpayers or donors, leading to extensive attempts to measure the impact of development work.

Yet collecting and evaluating data to do this can take a great deal of time and effort – sometimes at a detriment to the core programme goals.

Thus, many organisations funding global development face a Goldilocks dilemma. If they spend too little time tracking the efficacy of their work, they could waste resources and lose the confidence of their backers. But if they spend too much time on it, they could still end up wasting resources and doing less of the good they initially set out to do.

To solve this problem, we need ways of assessing impact that are rigorous enough to justify development activities to public and private funders, while also being simple enough not to require a disproportionate investment of resources.

Collecting and evaluating data can take a great deal of effort – sometimes at a detriment to the core programme goals

For Rabayl Mirza from the UN Development Programme’s Business Call to Action alliance, the key is to focus on reaching well-established development goals like the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – but not within a silo. The alliance advises partners to assess project impacts against the 17 SDGs, through organisations such as Global Reporting Initiative and SDG Impact, so that results can be aggregated and compared across initiatives and companies.

The alliance’s own approach is based on the five dimensions of impact developed by the Impact Management Project: what the project is; who is involved; how much is being invested; the contribution made by relevant stakeholders; and the risks that may be present in the project. By studying the operations of the company, it is possible to effectively illustrate how they contribute over time to outcomes related to the SDGs.

Read the rest of Christian Jahn and Susann Tischendorf’s article at Pioneers Post