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Dimensions of Impact Framework

The Dimensions of Impact Framework provides a useful tool for analyzing impact because it considers multiple aspects of impact and allows us to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the potential effects of a programme.

The five dimensions of impact - Who, What, How much, Contribution, and Risk - each play an important role in planning for and understanding impact

The "What?" dimension

This dimension focuses on the type of impact that a project aims to achieve and considers the broader social, environmental, economic, or health-related outcomes that are expected to result from the project.

To evaluate the "What" dimension of impact, the following questions need to be considered:

  • What are the intended outcomes of the project or initiative? What specific changes or improvements are expected to occur as a result of the project?

  • What are the negative/positive and intended/unintended outcomes of the project?

  • What is the level of innovation of the project? Does the project introduce new or novel approaches to addressing a particular issue, or does it build on existing approaches?

  • What is the potential for replication or scaling of the project? Can the project be replicated in other contexts, or scaled up to reach a larger population?

  • What is the alignment of the project with existing policies, strategies, and initiatives? Does the project align with existing efforts to address the issue it seeks to tackle?

The "Who?" Dimension

The "Who" dimension of impact considers the target audience or beneficiaries of a project. It is an essential aspect of impact assessment because it helps identify who the project aims to serve, their specific needs, and the demographics of the population. To assess the "Who" dimension of impact, it is important to understand the target audience and their characteristics, including age, gender, income, education level, and geographic location. By identifying the target audience, it is possible to evaluate the project's effectiveness in meeting the specific needs of this group.

The "How Much?" Dimension

This dimension assesses scale, depth and duration of the impact.

The scale category captures the number of people — whether that is employees, customers or distributors — who experience the outcome. Scale data provides insights about the significance of an outcome delivered by an enterprise. All else equal, an enterprise that affects 100,000 lives would be producing a more ‘significant’ outcome than one that reaches 50,000 lives. (When the stakeholder is the planet as a whole, this category is not applicable.)

The depth of an outcome captures the degree of social or environmental change experienced by the stakeholder. As opposed to scale, available as raw data, depth is derived from comparing the level of outcome that stakeholders are currently experiencing against the baseline. Depth can be a 10-point improvement in test scores, a 30% increase in salary, or a 5,000-tonne reduction of CO2 emissions.

Duration refers to the time period for which the stakeholder experiences the outcome.

The "Contribution" Dimension

This refers to the organization's contribution towards meeting international frameworks and policies, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined in Agenda 2030. This dimension focuses on assessing the extent to which projects align with international frameworks and policies, and the contribution they make towards achieving these goals. ‘Contribution’ should not be mistaken with depth under the ‘How Much’ dimension, which covers the significance of the outcome by calculating the difference between the outcome in period and the baseline, without considering the influence of other factors (e.g., other organizations, economic conditions).

The "Risk" Dimension

The "Risk" dimension of impact framework helps in identifying the risks associated that could hinder the achievement of the intended impact. These risks could be related to financial, social, environmental, or political factors.


APM Forum (2019) What is Impact Management?


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​​​Ann-Murray Brown

Monitoring, Evaluation and
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