Explore The Five Dimensions Of Impact

What is impact?

Thousands of practitioners have come together to agree on a shared understanding of impact.

Through the Impact Management Project, more than 2,000 enterprises, investors and practitioners have come together to build global consensus on how we talk about, measure and manage impact.

What is impact?

The impact of any effect is its performance across five dimensions: what, who, how much, contribution and risk.

Through the Impact Management Project (IMP), more than 2,000 practitioners have come together to build global consensus on how we talk about, measure and manage impact. By involving the whole value chain — from a policymaker in Argentina to a fund manager in East Africa to an asset owner in the UK — the IMP facilitated consensus about the definition of impact, across different perspectives, terminologies and logics.

After hundreds of in-person and virtual conversations, the IMP reached consensus that impact can be deconstructed into five dimensions: What, Who, How Much, Contribution and Risk.

  • What tells us what outcomes the enterprise is contributing to and how important the outcomes are to stakeholders.
  • Who tells us which stakeholders are experiencing the outcome and how underserved they were prior to the enterprise’s effect.
  • How Much tells us how many stakeholders experienced the outcome, what degree of change they experienced, and how long they experienced the outcome for.
  • Contribution tells us whether an enterprise’s and/or investor’s efforts resulted in outcomes that were likely better than what would have occurred otherwise.
  • Risk tells us the likelihood that impact will be different than expected.

In the next section, we introduce the impact data categories that operationalise these dimensions.

How do enterprises and investors assess performance?

Enterprises and investors assess performance across these five dimensions by measuring and analysing 15 categories of data.

To make impact management a reality, the IMP has developed a set of categories underpinned by the five dimensions. Produced by four working groups of 40+ organisations, these 15 impact categories enable enterprises and investors to set goals and assess performance. 

The impact data categories have not been designed to replace existing frameworks and standards. In fact, many enterprises and investors already collect data across the categories, but may have a different name for them. Instead, we believe the impact data categories are building blocks – if you are starting from scratch, you may want to build your impact management framework on top of them; if you already have an impact structure, then you may want to use the categories as a checklist to ensure that you are not missing any of the essential pieces for managing impact.

Click on any of the dimensions of impact to learn more about the categories – Why are they important for setting goals and assessing performance? How can you collect relevant data to populate them?