Impact refers to long-term change on a broad societal level. This kind of social change is not brought about by chance. It requires careful planning, regular monitoring and evaluation, and accurate data.
"Whenever we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."
– John Muir, environmentalist
A pilot programme in a developing Asian country aimed to educate mothers about nutrition in order to reduce a high childhood mortality rate.
Once completed, an evaluation was conducted to gauge the programme’s effectiveness and assess whether it should be rolled out nationally.
The evaluators found that the training outcomes had been achieved. The mothers knew what to feed their children and believed in the importance of feeding them nutritious food. However, the children were still malnourished and the impact – decreasing the mortality rate – was not being realised.
Why? Because in most households, the fathers bought the food and the mothers-in-law, with whom the families lived, cooked it. The social structure gave mothers little control over their children’s nutrition, so their improved knowledge and attitudes did not make a difference.
Despite recommendations that fathers and mothers-in-law should be educated too, or an alternative programme design be considered, the programme was rolled out with mothers only at huge cost and the mortality rate continued to increase.
(adapted from a working paper by Howard White, 3ie)
As this case study shows, it's important for organisations to gain an understanding of the context they are working in and allow this to steer their strategy for social change.
Impact Consulting can help your organisation to achieve this through focused planning and regular monitoring and evaluation, using accurate and relevant information.