Demystifying Impact Measurement

by David Van Eeghen | Posted on 5 July 2016 |Report

Our resident expert on impact, David Van Eeghan, has shared a jargon buster around impact measurement.

At its best, jargon can be short hand for complicated or abstract concepts – at its worse it’s confusing and alienating.

At Boncerto we don’t believe in using jargon for the sake of it – if you can’t explain things simply, then it’s probably not worth saying. We believe in simplicity and aim to cut through the jargon in everything that we do and use language with a purpose – it’s part of our ethos.

The following "cheat-sheet" aims to clarify terms around impact evaluation. Our huge thanks to our Associate, David, for sharing with us. We’ve also included all of this as a PDF download for you.

You can read more on Impact and Impact evaluation in David’s previous blog post around the topic.

“Theory of change” (ToC) – An articulation of how and why a given intervention will lead to specific change. A good ToC for impact measurement will describe the “how”, “what”, and “why” of a project with evidence-based frameworks to illustrate returns from a social or financial perspective.

“Target Group” – A detailed definition for whom a project is designed and targeted at. A good definition of a target population will be made up of both inclusion criteria (such as where a population is based, their age group, socio-economic status, any specialist conditions – e.g. a health condition or employment situation); and exclusion criteria (conditions that the project is not equipped to address, but which will affect its success).

“Baseline” – The situation of the population or issue to be addressed according to the identified criteria at the start of the project.

“Assumptions” – Factors outside of a project's control that are believed to remain consistent for the duration of its activity. The assumptions are typically identified in an analysis – either a SWOT analysis (Strengths/Weakness/Opportunity/Threats) or a PESTLE analysis (Political/Economic/Social/Technological/Legal/Environmental).

“Inputs” – The resources necessary to deliver the project as planned, including time, cash, infrastructure and skills.

“Activity” – How the resources will be used by those delivering the project.

“Outputs” – The direct results of the project’s activity. For example, reports produced, emails/letters/flyers sent, phone calls made, meetings held, interviews conducted, meals provided, buildings conserved, workshops held, adverts created, or infrastructure built.

“Direct outcomes” – The changes expressed by the target group or situation that are a direct effect of the project’s outputs. Outcomes are typically divided in to “hard” and “soft”.

      • Hard outcomes are objective by their nature. For example changes in employment rate, economic opportunities, crime rate, educational attainment, health engagement, homeless rate, purchasing decisions, accident rate, asset value and life expectancy.
      • Soft outcomes are subjective by nature and often linked theoretically to hard outcomes. For example, changes in attitude, self esteem, loyalty, aspiration, prejudice, behaviour and intentions.

“Indirect outcomes” – The legacy of a project’s activity that includes independently sustained behaviourial changes and sharing of ideas, attitudes, and opportunities by members of the target group to other populations that had no direct contact with the project.

“Distance travelled” – The change relative to the baseline in the target group or issue addressed at regular intervals throughout the duration of the project.

“Impact” – The effect of the changes expressed by the target group as a result of the project’s activity. Impact is often expressed in financial values in order to calculate a return on investment. This financial value is calculated as a reduced financial burden, an increase in revenue/productivity, or a combination of the two.

There is currently research being conducted on the cultural impact of programmes. However, given that impact evaluation has principally arisen to serve funders, much more work is needed for organisations to confidently assess impact on a cultural level.

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