An impact map is used to illustrate complex impact relationships. Within the framework of an impact map, a social space is spanned on the basis of the stakeholders, the organisation, the company, project or programme and measured with regard to the impacts. The focus here is on the impacts of the activities or services or products of the organisation under consideration.
The survey of impacts, consequences and interactions can be carried out qualitatively or quantitatively. In the former case, the interrelationships are described hypothetically and, if necessary, surveyed empirically without quantification. This makes it possible to present the interrelationships of impacts in relation to each other without having considered the significance of individual impacts in terms of quantity and, if necessary, intensity. The latter can optionally be integrated into an impact map, using thicker connecting lines or impacts with a larger font.
At the centre of an impact map there is an organisation or a company, but it could also be a project, a programme or an entire sector. This organisation provides various services, which are located on the impact map (light grey circles, services 1-3). Around them are stakeholders, i.e. interest groups that feel an impact from the organisation or its services (light grey circles, stakeholders 1-3). In an impact map, consequential effects or impacts that do not arise directly and build on a previous impact can also be entered. On the one hand, they can be second-level impacts (WE2) that are based on first-level impacts (WE1) with the same stakeholder. On the other hand, they can also be first or second level impacts based on impacts of other stakeholders.
An impact map distinguishes:
1. impacts that originate from an entire organisation/sector among stakeholders (light green arrow)
2. impacts that arise from an entire organisation/sector for individual services of this organisation/sector (dark green arrow)
3. impacts caused by individual services on other services of the organisation (orange arrow),
4. impacts caused by individual services on stakeholders (red arrow),
5. consequential impacts or impacts that do not arise directly and build on a pre-step impact (blue arrow),
6. interactions, which are a special form of consequential impacts and go in both directions because two impacts influence each other (purple arrow).
The impact map unfolds its strength particularly in the representation of impact models of complex organisations or sectors with a number of services as well as impact models with a very large number of stakeholders and impacts. Here, simple impact models reach their limits in their graphical representation. Furthermore, the software-based impact map is suitable as a form of representation if quantification is added to the purely descriptive relationships.
The main advantage of the impact map is the comparatively clear presentation of the complexity of a multifaceted impact model. A first glance shows the complexity, which can be quickly broken down into its components at a second glance. This is precisely why it is suitable for communication to expert audiences and as a basis for strategic analysis. A simplified representation and individual sections of an impact map can also be used for stakeholder communication.