Understanding the outcomes your organisation achieves and developing your impact stories can seem like a complex undertaking. Breaking this process down into stages can help to keep you on track – so we’ve outlined a six-stage process below to help you navigate the social impact evaluation journey.
In the discovery stage, it is important to ask key strategic questions to understand the basis to achieving change and how can it be measured. What is the issue you’re trying to solve? What do you want to achieve? Who are the key players? Do you need to refine your services or create new services? What would happen if you did nothing? These are examples of some of the questions that tools like a Theory of Change, a Service Blueprint and a Strategic Plan can frame to find actionable results.
2. Design evaluation strategy
This is where your organisation and the community translate the answers to the questions in the previous stage into metrics. If an organisation has a common understanding of the issue and the goals to achieve, then it can define if the actions taken with the community are driving change and impact. During this stage, you understand what are the resources available to collect information from community members.
3. Design data collection framework
Based on the metrics defined in the previous stage, your organisation works with key stakeholders (such as community members and other organisations) to define the questions and the tools to ask them. If you want to capture change and impact, it is necessary to set a timeframe to compare how an intervention or service has influenced people’s behaviours, skills, status and/or capacities.
4. Evaluation implementation
Once you have a set of impact assessment tools to ask questions, your staff or a third party can start to collect the answers. This stage is subdivided into two separate actions:
- Capturing the information from the community via face-to-face interviews, focus groups or written surveys.
- Translating the information collected into insights that are directly linked with the issue and goals defined in the first stage of this process.
5. Evaluation implementation
Information and associated insights are collected and turned into digestible infographics. Easy-to-read graphics are helpful to report the progress you’re making internally and/or externally.
6. Outcome-based reporting
The final stage of the social impact evaluation process is to prepare concise, engaging and digestible reports for targeted audiences. Typically, the audience of these reports includes funders, community members and internal staff. These can be written reports, grant proposals or information gathered to report back to a funder.