Impact Mapping has long been used as a tool to measure impact, but often much further into the service or product development journey. We had a theory – if we added Impact Mapping to our toolkit and brought it earlier in the design process, would that deliver better outcomes for our people and teams?
As user-centred practitioners, we are familiar with the challenge of creating impactful services that meet the needs of the people who use them, while also aligning with business need and policy outcomes. While many of the tools in our kit aim to achieve this, having a method to create services that are not only well designed but also have a measurable impact on the lives of service users, is very appealing.
To test our hypothesis, we built out an in-depth, interactive workshop which we ran with some talented people from our own teams and across government. Before we share the insight, let’s first look at how we brought the participants on a journey to understand impact mapping and its value.
As a starting point for the workshops, we asked our participants the following:
What does ‘having an impact’ look and feel like to you?
We received a variety of interesting responses, including:
For us as a design team, ‘impact’ is the sustained change that you aim to see within people or environments who directly or indirectly engage with your work.
We break ‘impact’ down into three key elements:
To articulate ‘impact’ in practice, we use ‘impact statements’. These statements summarise the impact you want to achieve with your work. They might actually look similar to your project’s or organisation’s vision statements.
For example, an impact statement may be:
To ensure that impact statements are person-centred and relevant, it’s best to use research and community engagement to inform them. We would also encourage you to keep them succinct – one or two sentences is ideal.
Impact statements form a fundamental part of the overall impact mapping process, and in our workshops, we asked participants to come armed with impact statements that were relevant to their current work.
We made sure the impact statements were the right ‘scale’ by assessing whether they lived at a societal, organisational or individual impact level. Focusing on individual or organisational impact can be helpful if you are looking to achieve impact on things like team dynamics, project outputs, culture within an organisation, or growth. However, for this particular mapping exercise, we wanted to focus on societal impact – this leads to outcomes like equality, diversity, inclusion, justice, wellbeing and resilience.
Impact mapping is a strategic process. It’s a tool for setting clear intent around the positive impact we want to achieve, and mapping the journey for getting there.
It’s a method for gathering team consensus on our longer-term objectives and challenging our assumptions around how we think positive change occurs.
The collaborative and inclusive process is as important as the output. Ensuring a range of perspectives are represented is critical to a good output. It’s also helpful if the process is facilitated by an external party to help hold the space for those contributing.
Impact mapping forms the foundations for what we measure, enabling us to learn whether what we’re doing is having a positive effect. It helps us contextualise our service, helping us to see the bigger picture of we contribute to long-term change.
Impact mapping can take a variety of forms, and a range of frameworks – including the ‘5 dimensions of impact’, logic models, outcomes stars and the theory of change. Which framework you choose, and the way it looks, matters less than 1) who is in the room and 2) the discourse it generates.
Impact mapping is a useful way of ensuring we have a shared understanding of what we’re aiming for in our work. It helps us to:
We’ve taken some time to digest our findings from the various workshops. Here we explore some of the key themes and takeaways:
We started with a hypothesis. Can impact mapping be used as part of the designer’s process to create even better services?
We’ve explored impact mapping during a series of in-depth interactive workshops, carefully analysing the discussions and their outputs. What we discovered was that yes, impact mapping is a great opportunity for organisations to create better services. But it needs to be used as part of a wider kit bag of tools.
It’s clear from our sessions that impact mapping can be a powerful tool that not only helps us but also helps our teams and our service users. It can help us gain a better understanding of the various factors that influence the success of a service, and break down silos, particularly in larger programmes of work.
Fully understanding the scope of impact mapping and its limitations is a good place to start. Following our suggested next steps will help ensure that your impact mapping process is useful, inclusive and in itself, impactful.
Here are some key steps to take to introduce impact mapping into your team today:
Impact mapping is a key enabler of collaboration – supporting teams in gathering around a common goal and breaking it down into achievable steps. It is also a strong motivator – often in our work, we don’t always get to see the outcome of longer-term initiatives immediately. Knowing exactly how our work contributes to a longer-term goal helps teams stay motivated and reminds them of their role in the bigger picture.