• Michelle Shumate

What is social impact?

Updated: Mar 9, 2020

Angel Impact Investors. Collective Impact. Corporate Impact. The world seems to be obsessed with the type of social impact that organizations can make in society. But is social impact the same as doing good?

Social impact describes how communities and the planet benefit from the work of organizations focusing on social issues.

That’s a pretty generic definition. But notice what it’s not.

  • Social impact doesn’t refer to activities or the outputs of organizations.

  • It doesn’t mean how competent people who are providing it feel or how expert they’ve become.

  • It’s not the success of organizations or networks in attracting funds, forming partnerships, or growing their capacity.

Social impact is about the outcomes. It’s measured by how communities and the planet benefit. When a person goes to the doctor, and the doctor prescribes a medicine, that’s an activity. When the patient receives that drug, it’s an output. When the patient gets better, that’s an outcome. Social impact focuses on the result – when the community gets better, when the environment is restored.

Social impact is also about communities and the planet. Although having productive employees, competent leadership, and organizations with adequate capital are all great things, alone, these do not produce social impact. Instead, these resources have to be deployed in productive ways so that communities or the planet benefit.

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