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Some of the biggest opponents to foreign aid believe that aid given out will not have the impact the projects set out to have. While case studies in Europe, Asia and some African countries show the positive impacts that foreign aid will have on struggling economies, there is still always doubt that the international community can make a positive impact.

The Impact Genome Project was announced in April of 2014 to look at how programs will impact the communities they set out to help. The Project was introduced by Jason Saul and Nolan Gasser, two scholars who are prominent members of the Mission Measurement Corporation. The corporation advertises itself as “the world leader in measuring social outcomes,” and this new project will draw on the existing database the company has in efforts to predict social impacts.

The hope is that this Project will make foreign aid more efficient and allow the international community to learn more about what they can do to encourage emerging economies. Jason Saul, the CEO of the Mission Measurement Corporation, says “we’ve been working to improve the world by changing the dialogue around social impact… creating a literal ‘social capital market.’” While Saul may be espousing a wildly optimistic viewpoint, the hope is that the project will bring about a substantial stage in the social advocacy discourse.

Moreover, the way this project works may be difficult for some observers to understand. Saul and Matt Groch, another Mission Measurement executive, compare their project to Pandora’s Music Genome Project, which used listener preferences to predict songs they might like. Using a number of factors such as capacity, cost and consistency, as well as metrics concerning the number of people likely to be affected positively and the cost to affect each of those people. Mission Measurement hopes that the combination of these considerations will measure social impact as easily as a bank can evaluate a loan.

The project carries a great amount of promise for the future as we look to bring the world forward into a flourishing global economy, yet there are some doubters over the project’s potential. One writer for the Guardian newspaper points out that, “establishing benchmarks on costs-per-outcome can be reductive and inaccurate because they are changing so rapidly.” The worry is that outdated information will promote inaction rather than positive impacts.

The Impact Genome Project has a big goal ahead of it, and it will surely be judged harshly by some sectors of the international community. If the Project can give some additional clarity that will help bring down the number of people living in extreme poverty, then it can surely be considered a success. The Borgen Project and organizations like it continue to work to reduce this number as well. The hope is that the Impact Genome Project will be another great ally in this fight against global poverty.

– Eric Gustafsson

Sources: The Guardian, Business Wire, Stanford
Photo: The Guardian