The range of impact (typology part A)

What types of impact are possible? If you can imagine a kind of social change, games are there. Thousands of possibilities exist — from tiny to massive, global to local, economic to sociological.

It is tempting to map them all:

But then we lose perspective.  What we need is the big picture.  Especially to address a few of the most important needs in our field:

  1. To orient new funders and producers.  What options are possible?  Where to begin? The goal is to articulate the forest, not just trees with deep roots.
  2. To compare similar projects, i.e., based on similarities in logic models and theories of change, not content areas
  3. To reduce friction in the field, e.g., talking past each other

The dream is more like:


What’s the difference?

  1. Organizes with big categories
  2. Less overwhelming
  3. Hints at layers of depth

But what should the umbrella nodes and categories be? If we’re not proactive, one group may define impact for the field leaving out a crucial breadth of perspectives and practices:

Any one discipline in isolation has blinders, leading to some classic problems:

  • Not inclusive of people (splinters the movement)
  • Not inclusive of impact types — overlooks key forms (e.g., sociology rarely invoked by psychologists)
  • Confuses truth with being useful; in fact, narrow truths often inhibit broader understanding, and broad understanding may require some deliberate and strategic ambiguity

Wanting to create a useful understanding of impact means that this a design challenge, with obstacles to be overcome (like getting the framing right). Solutions to this design challenge will be successful if they:

  1. change how we design
  2. bring people together (cohesion)
  3. foster more useful debate (the right kind of disagreements)

What does it look like?  Watch for our next post…

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