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Impact Measurement FAQs

A glossary of definitions and FAQs to support museums working in this area.

Overview

Some of the terminology used in relation to measuring impact can be hard to understand, or is used in a variety of different ways. The information here may help you to get to grips with this area.

Definitions

Data is information that has been collected and analysed: data only becomes suitable for making decisions once it has been analysed.

Economic impact is the monetary value assigned to the jobs, purchases, and visitor spend generated by an organisation. 

Impact measurement is the process of trying to find out what effect an intervention (such as an activity, event, or outreach programme) is having on people, organisations, or their external physical, economic, political or social environment.

Monitoring is observing and checking the progress of your project or activity over a period of time. Feedback is information about individual or group reactions to a product, activity, programme, or performance, while evaluation is the process of judging the quality, importance, or value of a programme or activity. Monitoring, feedback, and evaluation can all be used as a basis for improving programming, but not interchangeably.

When you measure social impact, you provide a snapshot of a point in time, measuring what happened and to whom it happened. Measuring social impact involves isolating cause-and-effect relationships between a specific set of activities and outcomes. At its most effective, measuring social impact involves developing specific parameters and undertaking controlled collection of data.

Social value, on the other hand is, is about exploring a holistic view of the difference that has been made to society as a whole, whether by a project or activity, or by an organisation as a whole. Social value is about a systemic, network effect, rather than the isolated impact on a defined set of individuals.

Qualitative v. quantitative

There are two major types of measurement: quantitative and qualitative.

Quantitative measurement is about using numerical data to prove the broad general points of your research. Quantitative data can include the information about the economic impact or income of your museum, but it is not limited to information about finances or funding. For example, quantitative information used by your museum can include the numbers of attendees at a particular event, the number of objects loaned from your museum within a calendar year, or the number of hours worked by your volunteers, as well as the income of your museum from grant funding or retail.

Qualitative measurement brings you the details and the depth to understand the full implications of your work. These include case studies, individual testimonies about the difference made by your programme, or stories about changes made in people’s lives by your activities.

Quantitative and qualitative research and measurement are complementary methods that you can combine to produce authoritative, compelling stories about the impact of your museum.

Outputs v. outcomes

Outputs are the immediate results of activities or programming (such as resources produced, the number of attendees at an event, or the number of handling boxes created). Output is usually used to refer to an immediate, tangible yield (the 'product'). 

Outcomes are the changes produced as the result of programming: outcomes include the knowledge transferred and the behaviours changed as the result of a programme, event, or workshop. Outcomes are the difference made by the outputs.