Part of the value of understanding and measuring the social impact of an activity is that it provides insight into how change happens for stakeholders. Having this understanding can enable the collection of data which evidences the relationships between activities and their outcomes, and outcomes and related outcomes. This means that, over time, decisions on policy, service design, delivery and support can be taken on an informed basis, which will increase the positive social impact created.
In order to understand the relationship between an activity, and the outcomes that stakeholders experience, it is useful to develop a ‘Theory of Change’ for the activity. This sets out the relationship between the inputs, the actions, the outputs and the outcomes of the activity being analysed, as well as identifying and expressing any assumptions that have been made about how a particular action might lead to a certian outcome.
A practical way to articulate in a visual way the theory of change for a particular acivivity is to use a Logic Model. Logic models enable the planning out of actions to deliver change and provide a place to articulate assumptions about how this change might be delivered. Other mechanisms which enable the same kind of understanding are Impact Maps in SROI, and Stakeholder Analysis in Social Accounting and Audit.