The term social-impact analysis can be understood in a narrow and a broader sense.
- Social-impact analysis in the narrow sense means that solely the results of a project are considered – thus, OutcomeOutcomes describe the effects of your project at the level of the target group. They are a core part of the logic model and are subdivided into three stages: changes in knowledge, attitudes and abilities (level 4); in behavior (level 5); or in the living situation / status of the target group (level 6) outcomes and ImpactImpact (as a level of result / effect / change) covers the social or economic changes at the societal level (level 7). Since reference to society as a whole is neither reasonable nor possible, the changes usually refer to a defined part of society or a region. impact. With this effects-oriented approach, however, it remains entirely unclear how these results have been achieved, and which measures contributed most decisively (and which did not).
We therefore encourage you to engage in social-impact analysis in a broader sense. This involves considering results (outcomes and impact) as well as examining the products and services provided ( OutputOutput describes the countable offerings and products of a project as well as their utilization by the target group. Outputs form the basis for a project to have a desired result. Yet, they do not describe results per se. output) along with their quality. It also takes into account the fundamental assumptions regarding social impact underlying the project.
Measuring social impact?
Although social impact cannot be precisely measured, the idea is often raised. Social impact is a complex phenomenon and isn’t computable to the last decimal point.
Similar but different: Monitoring and evaluation
Monitoring means collecting information regularly in order to observe the project’s progress and maintain quality standards.
Monitoring is useful for documenting inputs, outputs and easily captured results. If pursued systematically, monitoring permits statements about the entire project to be made later. This can be particularly relevant for projects in which a full evaluation isn’t possible.
By contrast, difficult-to-collect data are generally collected through evaluations. If the monitoring data reveals that a project is not going as planned, an evaluation can establish why this is so. An evaluation examines and evaluates processes, results and social impacts. Evaluations can be carried out at various points in time.
Monitoring and evaluation are contrasted in the table below:
|Initial question||What’s happening in the project?||Why is something happening, with what degree of quality, and with what consequences (results)?|
|Who?||Carried out internally by project staff||Carried out internally or externally|
|When?||Continuously (throughout the whole project)||At any given time during the project, at the project’s end, or some time after the project’s completion|
|Important for what level of the logic model?||Focus on inputs, outputs, and easily measurable results (outcomes)||Focus on results (outcomes and impact)|
Evaluations are no substitute for monitoring
In many projects, no regular monitoring takes place; instead, the project is simply evaluated only once, after the project’s end. This evaluation is vital; however, we’d like to inspire you to engage instead in continuous and systematic monitoring. Monitoring is the early-warning system for unexpected developments. Without monitoring you cannot respond adequately to deviations from your plan or other unforeseen events. Unlike an end-of-the-process evaluation, monitoring brings you invaluable certainty as you go along.
And monitoring on a regular basis does not have to be prohibitively expensive. For more on this, see our overview of data collection tools.