Social Impact relates to the changes, or outcomes, that various stakeholders experience as a result of a particular activity or investment.
Stakeholders of an activty can include individuals, groups, communities, local and national government and other public sector bodies with a policy interest in the outcomes experienced by other stakeholders of an activity, and any other entitiy or group that is either affected by, or affects, the activity to be assessed.
Regardless of the method or approach to impact measurement applied, since the process is about understanding the changes that various stakeholders experience, it is essential that these stakeholders are involved in the assessment.
Firstly, it is important to work with stakeholders to understand what outcomes are or will happen for them because of the activity. Often, what might be assumed to be happening is not what stakeholders will report, and understanding the difference in perspective is important when evidencing the effectiveness or otherwise of an activity to stimulate change.
Once an understanding of the outcomes of the key stakeholders involved in the assessment has been established, the outcomes they report need to be evidenced and measured. This involves working with the particular stakeholders to understand what was happening before the activity, and what is happening now – developing a ‘baseline’ against which any reported change can be measured. Although this can present challenges to an organisation, and although it is often not possible to work with every single individual affected by an activity, its important that the perspective of key stakeholders is represented in an evaluation and that this information is captured in a meaningful way. Most usually, outcomes will be monitired through the collection of appropriate indicator data. Outcome indicators are simply ‘indications’ that a change has taken place. This data will sometimes come directly from the stakeholder in question, though it can also be collected from secondary sources, and the appropriacy of the source will depend ont he stakeholder and the practicalities of engaging them directly in the evaluation.