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Sonja Gloeckle: Measuring BBG’s impact around the world

BBG360 is a monthly interview series with professionals and difference makers in U.S. international media whose work is advancing the mission and priorities of the BBG.


What is the impact model and how does it serve the BBG’s overall mission?

The impact model is a tool we use to measure our impact in the world. It is directly derived from the mission; it’s just a method of assessing whether we are meeting it.

The impact model allows us to take a holistic look at our performance. It is data driven which is very important because our external stakeholders need to see data. (We get both survey data and digital data largely derived from our websites, apps, and the social media sphere.) But we are not just limiting ourselves to data with the impact model, we are allowing anecdotal evidence to shine. Data can only show you one part of the story but oftentimes it’s really the anecdotal evidence that brings our success to light and therefore the impact model also gives a lot of room to indicators that are not data-driven.

How did the concept for the current impact model come about?The concept started about 5 years ago when the U.S. government shifted to more of an impact-based assessment model.  The BBG and its networks were actually on the forefront of these activities when it started this impact model evaluation back in 2012.

The original model, however, was overly complex and we never fully operationalized it.

Then in February 2016, under the guidance of BBG CEO John Lansing, we held a two-day impact summit with all the BBG networks in which we agreed on a simplified version of the impact model.

What’s really nice about this new impact model is that it gives more flexibility to all the networks. It not only relies on data but also gives more space to anecdotal impact evidence, such as stories that went viral, were picked up by other news media or that led to a government making a legislative change.

What was the process like in developing these goals?

The process was literally a two- day discussion of about 30 or 40 people in a room hashing the basic concept of it out. Then we had another two days for the research directors, that’s a group of five people, to then really operationalize it, to put definitions for each of the indicators, debate how we are going to calculate certain things, etc. But it was a group effort for sure.

When the new impact model was created, how did you come up with ways to measure our success?

The BBG is incredibly complex. We have the overarching mission statement of the BBG but each network also has their own mission statements. And then we operate in over 100 markets and it’s very difficult to compare, let’s say Estonia to Eritrea. So what we ultimately ended up with are three impact pillars directly related to our mission statement. The first pillar is “inform,” the second is “engage and connect,” and the third is “be influential in support of freedom and democracy.” Underneath each of these pillars, we put certain goals to make these rather vague concepts a little more precise. Then for each goal, we assigned impact indicators which are proxy measures that allow us to assess whether or not we have achieved a goal.

How is the BBG impact model different from that of other broadcasters?

What’s interesting is that the BBG is at the forefront of international broadcasters, in general, with its impact model. To my knowledge, the BBG was the first of all international broadcasters to have an impact model and we have actually consulted extensively with other international broadcasters on how to create their own impact models.