Museum Camp

A project of the
Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History

What is Social Impact Assessment?

One camp. Three jargon-y words. What exactly is this event about?

When we talk about “social impact assessment,” we mean measuring the effects that a program causes in a community. We do this by defining outcomes or effects of interest (the social impact we care about), and then identifying indicators of those effects happening. By measuring the incidence of the indicators, we can learn more about how successful we are being at causing the change we want to see.

The social impact can be as big and seemingly immeasurable as “compassion,” “equity,” “participation,” or “vibrancy.” The goal of Museum Camp is for us to find indicators for these impacts and creative ways to measure them.

Consider, for example, the Aztecas Soccer Academy in Watsonville, CA. This soccer league strives to heal dangerous rifts and promote greater community safety by uniting youth with rival gang affiliations around their collective love of sport. What indicators might demonstrate an increase in “unity?” One of the things Aztecas measures is the willingness of players in the soccer league to shake hands on the field with kids from rival gangs. 98% of Azteca players are willing to shake the hands of kids they might bully, fight, or run from on the streets. Check out this TEDx talk from Aztecas founder Gina Castaneda to learn more.

What change are you interested in making? What proxy indicator for that impact might exist? It might be as simple as counting handshakes on a soccer field.

If you want to learn more, here are a few good resources to understand how this kind of work works (with an arts bent):

  • Evaluating Impact/Appreciating Evaluation A paper by counselors Barbara Schaeffer Bacon and Pam Korza about surprising impacts of artist interventions in city planning and quality of life.
  • Use or Ornament? A terrific, but long, paper by Francois Matarasso about social impact in the arts. Check out page 11 for a long list of social impacts of the arts that might open up some possibilities in your mind.
  • Seven Deadly Sins of Impact Evaluation A short article by Matthew Forti splashing some cold water on the face of impact evaluation