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After all, what is social impact?

by Letícia Stables

The term social impact can be understood as a positive and significant change that addresses a pressing social challenge. The creation of social impact is therefore the result of an intentional set of actions and initiatives with an objective that corresponds to this definition.

It is critical to differentiate between the term broad impact and a more deliberate definition of social impact. Impact by itself implies an influence or effect on just about anything, given its context. Social impact is based on the effect that an action has on an urgent social challenge.

A debate and reflection on what is urgent is very necessary in this context, because social challenges change all the time and invariably. Local contexts may differ from one another, perhaps mirroring global needs or sometimes contradicting these needs. Therefore, a level of consensus is needed, which must consist of guaranteeing a minimum base of dignity, freedom and opportunities, which are generally more pressing for populations and communities in vulnerability and those who lack basic and essential resources or services to live.

The change that the term social impact seeks must bring the prospect of improving social conditions around a current situation. Thus, the social impact effect must be a positive change for a given challenge.

Another very important consideration is a careful analysis of the context of the social challenges in question, so that social impact actions speak directly to the interests and real needs of those who will be positively impacted.

Finally, the use of the term significant, in the definition of social impact that I propose is compelling for a few reasons.

The first is that any social progress requires a deep and structural movement from the status quo. Fighting only the symptoms of a social problem, with purely analgesic measures will always be insufficient, and therefore, we are challenged to think of short, but also medium and long term solutions. The second is that the term social impact is increasingly in vogue and is often misused to imply even small changes.

To maintain this term with all its potential and persuasiveness, we must ensure that our efforts for social impact actually represent a significant, disruptive and lasting change in our societies. There are a multitude of ways to achieve social impact, given that the social challenges we face at this time are unfortunately innumerable.

My objective in focusing efforts on the definition of this term social impact was to emphasize the multiple routes and possibilities towards a desired positive result, proposing a holistic and multidisciplinary approach.

When we apply the concept and practice of social impact, we clearly perceive the possibilities of covering different contexts of action and areas of influence that easily expand from the health area to the financial sector, from the areas of communication and marketing to the area of law, fashion, education and so on.

Therefore, I wish with all my heart to encourage you regarding the perspective that social impact is a multisectoral invitation, we all have the opportunity to be protagonists and part of the answers to the changes we want to see in the world.

With warm regards,

Letícia Stables


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