Social innovations are new solutions to social problems whose ultimate goal is to deliver positive impact to society. But how do we know if we are successfully fulfilling this purpose?

Social Impact Assessment (SIA) constitutes the process of: “analysing, monitoring and managing the economic, social and environmental consequences of business activity, both positive and negative, independently of the intentionality of the activity”[1]. Unlike environmental or economic impact evaluations, which are mainly ex-ante analyses to predict the effect of a given plan or project, social impact assessment is usually carried out to evaluate an activity in progress or as an ex-post evaluation of an intervention.

When conducted adequately, social impact assessment can be a useful tool for external stakeholders’ accountability, internal decision making as well as performance evaluation. But despite the general consensus on the importance of assessing impact, many organisations do not analyse their impact regularly. It is mainly because one of these reasons:

  • Some organisations do not yet recognise the value of Social Impact Assessment and they are still not requested to do it by their funders.
  • Others would like to evaluate their impact but lack the resources to do it. Despite its benefits, Social Impact Assessment is a time-consuming and labour-intensive task that can be difficult to assume by smaller organisations.
  • For others, the challenge may lie in how to do it. The breadth of existing methods and tools to measure impact presents a confusing panorama, and the diversity of organisations pursuing a social mission makes it impossible to have a one-size-fits-all solution.

Even for organisations with the necessary capacity and the will, measuring social impact effectively but efficiently remains a complex issue. A recent survey in the non-profit sector showed that 50% of organisations are struggling with impact evaluation, which was considered as the top challenge that the non-profit sector faces today by the nearly 3,000 respondents of the survey[2].

Source: Meehan and Jonker (2017) Stanford Survey on Leadership and Management in the Nonprofit Sector  

If you are one of these organisations having difficulties navigating the Social Impact Assessment landscape, don’t worry. We are here to help you. Limitless has the expertise to guide you through it and find the way that suits your organisation’s ambitions and resources. Feel free to contact us with any question you may have. Also, get in touch if you would like to collaborate with us on this topic.

Limitless is also developing the Social Innovation Academy. Get in touch if you would like to join our global Advisory Board or Friends Community.

[1] Florman, Klingler-Vidra and Facada. (2016). A critical evaluation of social impact assessment methodologies and a call to measure economic and social impact holistically through the External Rate of Return platform.

[2] Stanford Survey on Leadership and Management in the Nonprofit Sector

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 739636. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Agency and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

We have proven strategies to help you measure and demonstrate the social impact of your future, current or past social innovation.

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