Social Impact--a New Conceptual Approach

Gorgi Krlev (University of Oxford)

Abstract: This article develops a new conceptual approach to assessing the social impact created by social purpose organisations. Such assessments are subject to (1) the measurement problem, i.e. the challenge of translating social impact into measurable components; (2) the attribution problem, i.e. confounding within complex social reality. All three current conceptual approaches to social impact, at least in part, fail to address the two problems: (1) Cost-benefit Analysis, (2) Life-satisfaction approaches, and (3) the Capability Approach. There is another way of measuring social impact though: Social purpose organisations produce a variety of capitals that enable final social outcomes. Assessing these capital forms can serve as an alternative unit of measurement. The article deals with various capital forms but focuses on social, political and cultural capital and shows how the ‘capital based approach’ to social impact can be operationalised by drawing on an investigation of social capital in living facilities for senior citizens. It outlines how the approach can solve both assessment problems.