The Value Web just returned from the 3rd future symposium of the Generali Zukunftsfonds in Cologne, Germany, which is the non-profit division of Generali Insurance. Their aim is to counteract the growing overageing society by supporting projects that activate the existing potential of elderly people in regards to their competencies, energy and time.

170 participants from government, business, academia, non-profit organizations and volunteers joined the 3rd future symposium to discuss impact measurement and social investment in the third sector and the engagement of the so-called “Generation 55 plus”.

Some key questions were:

  • How can we measure social and political impact of volunteer work? What (new) models do we need, if at all?
  • Is there actually such a thing as social return on investment?
  • How can we best exploit the potential of Generation 55plus?
  • How much can we count on civil society to support the engagement of Generation 55plus?

What we observed:

  • Is impact measurement just another hype, as it could expand into a $500 billion industry in the next decade?
  • What cannot be measured cannot be controlled; but should we still measure social impact although this might lead into economization of voluntary work?
  • There is no one model to measure impact – we might need several “light” models for measurement: leave unnecessary administrative measurement tactics behind and just support what is effective
  • Projects are only funded in the starting phase, nothing is left once they are up and running
  • There is no failure culture: why can’t projects fail first to succeed in the end?
  • The quality of an NGOs work is primarily determined by the quality of its relationships with its intended beneficiaries
  • Generation 55plus is seen as being very credible but individuals of that group do not want to be squeezed into institutional frames and norms for impact measurement
  • Sharing knowledge and learning across generations is key – despite their large experience of life, Generation 55plus is as eager to learn as the younger generation

Quotes that inspired participants and us:

“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.” Albert Einstein

“The most serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers. The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong question.” Peter Drucker

“Take the experience and power of judgement of people over 50 out of this world, and there won’t be enough left to secure its existence.” Henry Ford

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