In conventional impact models, identified impacts are usually only cited and, at best, put in a chronological order. This is usually sufficient for simple, small projects with few impacts. In more complex interventions, when several stakeholders are involved, or when a large number of impacts are involved, it is advisable to create order. This is precisely where the concept of the impact box (Schober/Rauscher 2015) comes in. It helps to better locate the impacts of projects and organisations and can thus create a clearer picture in the impact model. In addition, the impact box, similar to a database, can give structure to a collection of impacts from several different, thematically related interventions or projects.
What do we understand by impacts in this context? They unfold as a consequence of actions or services in a variety of ways. As a rule, they are not one-dimensional, but are rather manifested in different dimensions of content.
On an aggregated level, these can be the following six dimensions:
However, the identified impacts can also be distinguished on a temporal and a structural level. In terms of time, measures can have short-term effects immediately after implementation, but also medium and long-term effects. Impacts can also be differentiated structurally: The micro level comprises impacts on an individual basis, i.e. the beneficiaries of an intervention have a personal benefit after its implementation. The meso level refers to organisations or groups, while the macro level focuses on society.
The strength of the impact box lies in analysing and structuring impacts and thereby better grasping their complexity. In summary, this tool helps to build a more complex impact model and to present and communicate it in a more differentiated way. As a strategic instrument, the impact box is particularly suitable for impact-oriented management in a target-performance comparison with the organisation's impact objectives. As a database, it is a good structuring aid for processing scientific results and as a basis for the evidence-based development of new interventions.
We have developed an impact box on the topic of out-of-school child and youth work together with the Federal Ministry of Labour, Family and Youth as a database. You can test it for yourself right here (the website and database is currently only available in German; however, the date base contains approx. 50% studies in English):