What is Impact?

In our latest blog, Thomas Gillan, Deputy Chief Executive at Social Investment Scotland asks “What is impact and why is it important”?

With applications for Impact Challenge having recently closed and Impact Summit 2019 taking place this month, we’ve been thinking about what ‘impact’ means to us here at Social Investment Scotland (SIS). It’s pretty complex for such a small word, but we believe that, in the right context, it has great meaning and is the driver for everything we do.

Stripping it back to its simplest form, impact is the effect something has. So, in theory, everything has an impact. Every person and every organisation will have an impact – but it is the kind of impact that we’re interested in.

In the socially-focused and mission-driven world, we mean impact as the positive, meaningful change that an organisation creates. We talk about it as the outcome of some intervention that has been put in place to tackle a challenge in society.

Notice that we’ve said outcome and not output. This is because there’s an important difference between the two. Your output is the product or service that your organisation delivers; whereas, your outcome is the meaningful change brought about because of your output. Make sense?

So, for instance, winners of last year’s Impact Challenge, One Cherry’s output is an online second-hand shopping platform. However, their outcome is much more meaningful in that it enables a more sustainable economy – reducing waste and encouraging reuse.

To us, impact is the end goal that must remain front of mind. Meaningful impact doesn’t just happen; it takes hard work, dedication and collaboration. At SIS, our vision is a purposeful economy and to work towards this we must not only consider the impact of our core activities, but also the impact of our wider existence. For example, we’re conscious to think about our supply chain and #BuySocial whenever reasonably possible.

Impact Challenge and events such as Impact Summit highlight the global mindset shift towards values being at the forefront of society. We’re inspired every day by our customers who are creating meaningful impact across the country and we look forward to hearing about the impact aspirations of those coming through Impact Challenge this year and in the years to come.

See our top three impact tips below and give us a shout on Twitter (@socinvestscot) if you have some of your own!

  1. Know your impact endgame – this will act as your vision and help guide decision-making
  2. Understand your impact – manage, measure and analyse your social impact to continually work towards creating greater meaningful change for those you seek to serve
  3. Exist ethically – think about the impact of everything you do; how can you create a positive impact out with your core activities (e.g. social suppliers)?