What does social impact mean

On the way to social “impact” - what is social impact?

Every day, people are committed to changing things for the better. You invest money and passion so that the disadvantaged are better off, that nature is protected or that culture in the neighborhood is promoted.

In short: with their work they try every day anew to advance society and thereby make a difference greatest possible effect to achieve.

But what does the term “effect” mean in this context? How does it show whether there was a social “impact”?

In relation to non-profit work, one speaks in simplified terms of effect or a social impact when a measure applies Changes

  1. with the target group,
  2. in their living environment and
  3. in society as a whole.

There are different levels that can be effective:

Effects at the society level will be as Impact referred to. In the figure this is the top level, level 7. This level is the hardest to reach and also the hardest to prove.

Effects with the target groups will be as Outcomes referred to. The outcomes can be subdivided, in the figure these are levels 4 - 6.

  • The third outcome level is achieved if, as a result of an offer or a measure the living situation of the target group changes, for example, it rises socially (level 6).
  • The second outcome level is reached when the target group as a result of an offer or a measure their behavior changes (Level 5).
  • The first outcome stage is reached when the target group as a result of an offer or a measure acquires new skills (Level 4).

Impact and outcomes must be the result of an offer or a measure offered by a social project. These offers or actions are called Outputs referred to. Classic outputs are, for example. Further education measures, training courses, orchestra rehearsals, Training materials, explanatory films, websites, social gatherings and exchanges (e.g. when a project brings lonely people into contact with one another). In the figure of the staircase for effects, the outputs are shown in levels 1 - 3.

In short: as a result of Outputs (Offers and measures) arise from the target groups Outcomes (Effects at the level of the target groups), which ideally have a social impact (Effect on the level of society as a whole).

Because this is very theoretical, let's explain it with an example:

Effect, very practical

A non-profit association has determined through an environment analysis that there is a great need for qualification measures for the unemployed gives. So he offers qualifying training courses to help the unemployed get back into employment.

Its performance (“output”, levels 1 - 3) consists, for example, of the number of training courses and the number of participants reached.

However, if one takes only the resources used (“input”) and the outputs as a basis, this does not say anything about the actual effect of the measure. Because a high number of participants and the personal satisfaction of those responsible for the project do not guarantee that the unemployed will acquire knowledge and skills relevant to the labor market - and that the project thus contributes to the actual goal: the re-entry of the unemployed into the job. In fact, the unemployed do not learn anything from the training, and the measure fizzles out ineffectively.

The real impact of the project can therefore be seen in the fact that the training participants Competencies acquire and Self-confidence build up.

First this Change in the target group (“Outcome”, levels 4 - 6) enables re-entry into the job. And that ultimately causes a change on a social level (“Impact”, level 7) in the form of a decrease in unemployment, for example in the district.

How to develop an impact staircase for your project step by step is explained in the “Effect Course Book”, which can be downloaded free of charge below. Or briefly on the site “Effective project management for clubs and nonprofits” ...

And in order to find out how effect-oriented you are, you can also question the effectometer in between ...

“Measure” and analyze the impact

First of all: You can have a social impact not without further ado measure up! Charitable work cannot be based on a grid that measures and compares the respective impact - following the pattern: organization A has an impact of 1.8 and organization B one of 3, so organization A is the more effective of the two.

But that can be done very well Impact potential analyze. One can reliably determine how efficient a non-profit organization is and how high the probability is that a project makes an impact.

And this is where the PHINEO analysis method comes in: We analyze how high the potential of a project is and how well positioned the organization behind it is. Our analysis method is based on a scientific method that has been tried and tested in Great Britain and which we have refined and significantly adapted to the structures of the non-profit sector in Germany to have. How the process can be implemented in the day-to-day organization of a social project is available for download in the “Effectiveness Course Book” below.

Impact analysis in eight criteria

  1. Goals and target groups of the project should be clearly tailored to the respective societal challenges. Because the more precisely a project is geared towards the needs of the target groups, the more likely it is to have an impact here too.
  2. Approach and concept of a project must be theoretically sound and sufficiently proven in practice. All measures should be optimally suited to the objective and the target group. Dealing with projects in the surrounding area is also relevant.
  3. An ongoing one also contributes to the effectiveness Quality development at. In an active learning culture, work results are measured according to clear standards and, depending on the result, the specific project work is further developed in a goal-oriented manner.
  4. Vision and strategy give an organization a clear direction. Real impact orientation requires that the planned action steps of an organization are suitable to actually achieve the long-term goals.
  5. Management and personnel management form the framework for effective engagement. Depending on the size of the organization, tasks and responsibilities should be defined clearly and in line with their skills.
  6. Every organization needs adequate Supervision and control mechanisms (“checks and balances”). Dependencies and personal ties should be ruled out, and finances should be checked by independent persons.
  7. Finance and Controlling are elementary for the management of an organization. The accounting should be prepared according to recognized principles. We also check the financing concept and the source and use of funds.
  8. Also Transparency and public relations are important for effective engagement, especially since social investors often make their support dependent on open information about project work, governance and the financial situation.

In order not to leave anything to chance, we subdivide these eight criteria into 21 sub-criteria. Taken individually and as a whole, these reveal how impact-oriented an organization works and how high the potential is for the project to achieve a high degree of social impact.

Organizations and projects that want to make a big impact can and should be based on these criteria.

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Course book foundations

Design funding projects in an impact-oriented manner. Also suitable for companies.

The course book effect

Our classic: Effective project management for clubs and non-profits