The impact house can be employed at different levels:
It can be used as a tool to decide on project outcomes and longer-term impacts, and how these would be measured at any point in the implementation of the project.
It can also be used as a tool in the evaluation of the project process and thus support the smooth implementation of a project with many different stakeholder interests.
In any case, the impact house helps to define a common impact vision as a group, and decide how to measure and make measurable the effects of project activities.
This method works best if the main stakeholders of the project are involved, including co-researchers. Through this, it can become a tool to structure a true co-evaluation.
This method can either be implemented online or in a physical setting.
In online spaces, a shared digital whiteboard is needed where an impact house template is prepared for participants to work on together. Additionally, communication software for online calls is essential. [Computers/smartphones, digital whiteboard, communication software]
For physical meetings, the impact house needs to be printed or drawn on a flipchart. Ideally, the templates will be filled with sticky notes, so notes can still be moved around in the house during discussion. It is also possible to write directly into the open spaces themselves. [Printer, flipchart, markers, papers, sticky notes/cardboard cards, room, tables
The impact house is filled from the bottom to the top, although this structure is not exceedingly strict.
- Starting at the bottom, first ask: “What does success look like at the end of the project for the various stakeholder groups involved?” Think about the concrete interests and expectations each stakeholder group has that are relevant to the project and use sticky notes to add them in each respective field.
- Then, think about concrete activities and outputs implemented in the project. What concrete steps will you undertake to achieve the success of the project and for the various stakeholders? What stakeholder groups will actually be involved? What are the goals and non-goals of these activities?
- From these, look for opportunities of evaluating these project activities together with your stakeholders. Which activities and outputs lend themselves well to co-evaluation, and how? If you have limited resources available, you might want to consider which activities and outputs are the most relevant to the project, and focus on these for co-evaluation.
- Frame all of this with the roof of the common goals and expected impacts beyond the project runtime.
- Finally, choose a focus for the co-evaluation, and define which method (approach) would fit best to evaluate this together with your participants (e.g., impact drawings, network maps, cultural probes, story telling, etc.). Always try to fit the method to the interests and capabilities of the involved stakeholder group, and don’t be afraid to get creative!
- The impact house can also be adapted to other needs and may include fields for potential challenges and risks, champions and blockers. Remember that potential blockers can be turned into champions by involving them in a CSS process early on!
Stefanie Schuerz, Katja Mayer, Barbara Kieslinger, Teresa Schaefer
ZSI – Center for Social Innovation
Adapted from Nyangala Zolho, The Innovation Growth Lab