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Social Impacts

"Added value is created by a specific activity of individuals, groups or organisations or companies making an additional contribution to the fulfilment of (fundamental) social objectives".

Impact can basically be any conceivable change of a situation. Basically, every action will produce impacts and even actions that are not taken will have impacts, as Schober/Rauscher (2014) show. But when is it a social (core) impact? This is the case when the change is aimed at goals that are particularly relevant to society. These are usually codified as fundamental social values and listed in the respective constitutions or catalogues of fundamental rights. However, social values and goals can also be understood as an aggregate of individual human needs. For example, every person has a certain individual need for security, which is reflected at the level of society as a whole, for example in the basic values of the "right to life".

Basic social values (e.g. freedom or tolerance) and individual needs can be seen as the basis for a need that can be met by the services of organisations, companies or institutions. Deliverables are services and products, but also activities, such as interest representation, which can lead to social impacts.

Technically speaking, social goals can be achieved in two different ways. Firstly, by bringing about changes directly at the structural macro level and influencing institutions, values and norms. Second, by bringing about changes at the individual level, which, due to their broad significance for many individuals, in turn become socially significant changes.

An example of social impacts at the individual level is the voluntary construction of barrier-free housing and business premises. There is an individual need for barrier-free space and this need is satisfied by the offer. In this way, the handicapped people concerned can integrate better into society, which in turn contributes to the basic value of equality. The second example, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, however, starts directly at the social macro level. Here, a change in the legal norms was brought about through interest representation. For example, it stipulates that handicapped persons must be enabled to lead independent lives and participate fully in all areas of life (Article 9 (1)). Barrier-free homes and workplaces must also be built on the basis of this. The abstract norm thus works its way from the macro level into society and leads to changes at organisational and individual level.

This example shows that social impacts can occur at structurally different levels (micro, meso and macro levels), but can also take on different dimensions. They can have a cultural, political, social, economic, ecological, psychological and physiological dimension. In terms of time, services can have short-term impacts immediately after implementation, but also medium and long-term impacts. The impact box (see figure below) is suitable as a strategic and analytical tool for building a more complex impact model and for presenting and communicating it in a more differentiated way.

Imapct box, own graphic