Design your impact
The Impact tool is a model created within the frame of the Erasmus+ program in order to help National Agencies, higher education institutions, youth organizations, and all those who wish to address the issue of “impact” in their projects, applications, activities or policy analyses.
Successful projects do create an impact and they are beneficial on multiple levels (individuals, organizations and our society).
By definition, impact is a marked effect or influence on something. But what exactly does this mean for your project? How can you ensure that a project has the largest impact possible? In case you would like to create a successful project, a lot of different factors need to be taken into consideration. The Impact tool can be used through the entire process.
The aim of this tool is to help you:
- think about the intended change and the design of your project;
- check whether you have sufficient confidence in the proposed interventions;
- think about the times in the project at which you can monitor and/or adjust the progress.
Working with the Model
The first stage of the Impact tool is the impact. In this stage, the desired impact of the project is defined. The desired impact consists of a larger and broader change that results from many other factors and cannot be measured. In order to define this, the group should start discussing ideas and decide what kind of fundamental change they want to contribute to. This contribution should be based on a wider change in society and can vary from innumerous topics such as active citizenship, gender equality, increased employability, racism and discrimination, etc.
This discussion will be useful during the upcoming stages, while making action plans in order to create the greatest possible impact. It is wise to invite the people linked to the project to be involved in this initial stage, in order to improve the quality and the relevance of this work.
However, the desired impact cannot be achieved by means of one project alone. The desired impact is indirectly influenced by the project, given that there are other factors that affect it. Therefore, it is important to mention that the project done can merely have a small influence on the desired impact and contribute to a small positive change.
Let’s take a look at our Connectivity project! The idea for this long-term initiative has emerged from the desire of increasing the key competences and skills of unemployed adults while supporting their inclusion in the labor market. Therefore, that is the fundamental change that this project aims to contribute to and the description for the first stage of this tool. In the next section, we will explain the outcomes of our project…
Some reflection questions to support the initial phase of the project are, for example:
- why do you want to create this project?
- who are the beneficiaries, or the target group of your project?
- what are the issues and needs that you are seeking to address through this project?
- which other stakeholders are involved and how do they see the target group?
- what is the role of your organization/group in achieving change for your target group?
- what is the desired impact of the project on local, regional, national, European and/or international levels?
After the impact, the next stage is the outcome. The outcome is related to the expected impact of the project. During this stage, the group defines the smaller or greater changes wished to be achieved and answers to the following question: what is the project’s contribution to these changes. This can include for example changes in behavior, motivation, skills, teaching quality, self confidence, stereotypes, awareness and so on.
The outcome is directly influenced by the project, which means that the effects of the project (outputs) will lead to the expected impact. The changes achieved become visible immediately or up to 6 months after the project. These are long-term and continue to exist even after the project comes to an end. The expected impact is anticipated to have a positive contribution to the desired impact.
If we look at the desired impact defined in the stage above, it’s possible to observe that in order to contribute to this impact, it is necessary to attain (behavioral) changes with the stakeholders of the project in question.
Returning to our example, within the bigger impact that the project aims to contribute to (increasing the key competences and skills of unemployed adults), a more achievable goal was created. Therefore, the expected impact intended to be reached is the improvement and extension of the supply of high-quality learning opportunities tailored to the needs of low-skilled or low-qualified adults.
We aim to do this by developing a method of sustainable inclusion for unemployed adults through educational outdoor activities. This project also contributes indirectly to the following areas: promoting the topic, financing adult learning, increasing the quality of adult education, increasing the access to adult education, monitoring the adult learning sector.
Some reflection questions that can support this phase of the project are, for example:
- which changes are required in order to achieve your desired impact?
- when will your project be a success? – formulate this as SMART as possible
- have you considered the effectiveness and equity of your intervention?
- which change/effect among your target group, organization or other entities do you wish to achieve? (consider a change in behavior or a changed situation in the environment of the target group; do not state “the staff members will know more about teaching techniques”, but “the staff members will teach better”)
- what experience and competences will the people and partners involved bring to the project?
The output consists of the tangible results needed to reach the outcome. The outputs of the project can be controlled since they are created as a direct result of the activities planned. These can include, but are not limited to, trained professionals/volunteers, trained students or youth, professionals and youth with international exposure, toolkits, publications/intellectual outputs, policy documents, research results, online platforms, etc.
The project will achieve its outcome when the target group shows an independent and structural change in the way they work, their attitude or their behavior. Projects should support this change by creating tangible outputs that can be put to use by the target group. In other words, all the outputs together must lead to the expected impact.
Going back to our project, the outputs created consist of two guidebooks (a workbook with activities and a handbook with the methodology used by each organization) tailor-made for adult educators, and an interactive online platform (the one you are reading right now). Each one of these outputs contributes to the outcome of the project.
The workbook contains a wide selection of educational outdoor activities tailor-made for this target group and aims to extend and develop the competences of adult educators and other professionals when it comes to organizing outdoor activities. The expected impact of the workbook on the participants of the project, the organizations involved, the associated partners and other specialists and target groups involved is higher motivation to work with fewer opportunity adults, upgraded knowledge in different activity elements as well as in their composition, engagement in European collaborative teamwork and in interdisciplinary cooperation, and an example of good cooperation between different types of organizations.
The handbook on another side supports staff members and organizations in creating a sustainable method of inclusion for fewer opportunity adults. The expected impact of the handbook on the participants of the project, the organizations involved, associated partners and other specialists and target groups is to enrich professional expertise by advanced guiding and coaching methodologies fitting for the target group, to enrich the set of tools and ideas when it comes to working with the target group, a higher motivation for working with the target group and including them in the work of the organizations, further support and innovative ideas within the organizations coming from the involved fewer opportunity individuals, improvement of the partners’ educational output by adding in a new way of working with their target groups, new pedagogical materials needed to address these target groups, creation of a strong connection in the methodology of the partners.
Finally, the online platform offers an innovative integration of formal and non-formal approaches so that educators can learn how to change the context of learning activities, as well as a wide spectrum of materials. This database brings visibility to the project and will keep being maintained and updated after the lifetime of the project. Moreover, it is a space for adult educators to get inspired, to become active in developing further tools and methodologies and to develop their competences.
However, creating high-quality outputs requires a lot of coordination and communication between everyone involved in the project. To have a clearer idea of what the group would like to create in this stage, the following questions can be reflected upon:
- which concrete results will you achieve with this output?
- why did you choose these results and how are they connected to the expected impact?
- have you included all tangible results that are needed to achieve the outcomes?
- how do you know that the target group will use these outputs?
- how will the target group use the tangible items, skills, attitudinal changes resulting from the project, in order to achieve the desired changes?
Before moving on to the next stage, it is important to verify if the answers given still correspond to the answers from the previous stages. Do the answers to the questions tie in with the impact and outcomes previously defined? Why?
Read our Latest Impact Story
As a local association, Rota Jovem’s goal is to support the local community of Cascais and to create an impact in youngsters’ lives, by organizing activities, projects, and giving them the necessary tools and support in order to implement their own ones. To come closer to this goal, Rota Jovem joined the Connectivity project, which […]
Activities are the actions carried out during the project. The activities done will lead to the outputs and consequently to the results initially defined. Examples of activities are workshops, training sessions, discussion groups, reflection activities, youth exchanges, etc. Based on the results a group expects to have, the selection criteria is defined, as well as the type of partners and supervision, and other factors that go into planning an activity.
In the outcome stage, the desired changes for a target group, organization or broader entity were defined. Now, the group should reflect on how to develop these tangible results within their project.
In the case of our project, the chosen activities consist of 4 training events (meetings), 3 transnational partner meetings and 14 multiplier events. Through these activities we would like to develop the outputs described above.
For example, the content included in the workbook was developed and tested throughout the training activities, in combination with the experience and practice of the partner organizations. The online platform was also developed and launched during the initial activities of the project in order to be promoted in the multiplier events, thus reaching a wider audience and supporting the project from an early phase. The multiplier events were designed to reach a larger scope of adult educators from each country where the partner organizations are located.
In these, intervision groups were created in order to share the development of adult education in relation to Connectivity, the issues that are being faced and possible solutions to these. The partner meetings served as a ground to establish the details of this long-term partnership, to evaluate and reflect on the achieved results, to make future plans halfway through the project, to evaluate and close the whole project while creating a follow-up and dissemination plan, including the evaluation of the outputs, activities and the sustainability of the project.
Some questions to support this stage are:
- which activities will you use to this end?
- does your organization/group have all the right skills and expertise to implement these activities successfully, or do you need external project partners?
- did you consider the efficiency of your activities? (e.g., group size, methods used, real-life applications, etc.)
- are you sure that these activities will deliver the outputs?
Reminder: check if the answers given still correspond to the answers from stages 1, 2 and 3. Do the activities tie in with the answers to the questions under impact, outcome and output? Can this fact be backed up by either experience or research?
To make the planning of this stage as specific as possible, the group can take extra steps, such as:
- outlining chronologically the main activities they plan to organize;
- describing for each activity the background and needs of the participants and how these participants will be selected;
- explaining the context and objectives of the activities planned and in which way they meet the objectives of the project;
- defining the learning outcomes or competences that are to be acquired/improved by the participants in each activity.
The final stage of the Impact tool is the input. This stage refers to all the resources required for the project to function. In order to implement the activities planned, certain resources will be necessary. These can fall into different categories such as staff time, finances, materials, services, etc.
The input necessary to implement our project successfully consisted of the funding, staff from our partner organizations, trainers, venue for meetings, events and meetings, materials for each activity, and so on.
Some questions that can be answered by the group in this stage are, for example:
- which resources will you use in order to achieve your activities, output and impact?
- how do you know that this process will ultimately lead to the desired outcomes and impact?
- is it realistic to expect that you can carry out the planned activities with this input?
- are these resources available from within your organization or elsewhere?
- how sustainable are your inputs (both environmentally sustainable and durable)?
Achieving a positive impact is always important when applying for a project, funding, grant, etc. But how can the impact of a project be measured? The Impact tool is a great instrument that we can use while designing a project. We suggest that you keep reanalyzing the stages of this tool, back and forth (firstly in the order proposed by us, then the other way around). This way you can always double-check your action plan and you can easily make adjustments if needed.
Additionally, you can also use this tool while planning one simple activity… it doesn’t need to be a project. You might need to make adjustments (you can read more about this in our handbook), still, this tool will give you a great overview and will support you in designing activities that have a true impact (instead of a short life-time). It will help you with the question of why (why are we planning to do this activity?) and it will walk you through the questions of how and what (how and what are we going to do in order to achieve the desired outcomes?).