What do we mean by impact and what do we mean by impact measurement?
Impact and Impact Measurement are both terms with many meanings. At the Common Approach, we use both terms in a broad sense.
Impact refers to, as defined by Innowave, the intended and unintended (positive or otherwise) changes (outputs, outcomes) that occur across the organization (within and/or across its programs) and with its stakeholders (including users, clients, partners, etc.) over a period of time (short term, long term) as a result of the organization’s activities.
The Common Approach does not place impact after outputs and outcomes. Impact is the outputs and outcomes.
We define impact as the portion of changes in outputs and outcomes that is the result the organization’s activities. This view is consistent with global consensus builders, like the Impact Management Project and leading Canadian initiatives like Innoweave, and work from the Rockefeller Foundation.
Impact measurement is the qualitative or quantitative assessment of impact based on measured observations (using survey data or other instruments) with a control group or theory-informed estimation.
Our definition of Impact Measurement is informed by academic work on theory-driven evaluation. There is a school of thought that believes random control trials (RCTs) as the only true way to measure impact. Theory-driven evaluation, by contrast, views outputs and outcomes as early or visible indications of long-term outcomes, such that well-selected indicators with a good theory of change can be used to reasonably estimate impact.