What is Impact?

This toolkit uses the term ‘impact’ to refer to “any change made to a situation or context”. Assessing impact therefore means documenting what has changed, as well as all those factors that have contributed to achieving that change.

(We note that this definition of ‘impact’ is different from how some other more common monitoring and evaluation practices may define the term.)

But ‘impact’ doesn’t just mean only the ‘good’ things. Assessment includes capturing intended and unintended impacts — positive and negative — and what your contribution to those impacts has been.

Note that it is often difficult to prove attribution of a project — that is, if your initiative was the direct and sole cause of an impact. In fact, most changes to a situation or context won’t be directly or solely caused by your initiative. Your initiative may only have a partial influence on the impact (or not at all).

The vast majority of social issue documentaries and their engagement campaigns are entering into a community (however small or large) of activists, leaders, organizations, and coalitions that have laid groundwork long before the films and campaigns were conceived, and they will be there for many years continuing to build the movement. This critical work must be acknowledged just another reason an element of ‘story’ is so important in this evaluation work so that this relationship can be explained.

Fledgling Fund

We suggest assessing what your contribution to a project or movement has been — that is, how much effect your initiative has had and what that effect is. To do so, a certain amount of humility is crucial to this work, as well as a willingness to not only concede but to honour that your contributions are in service to collective action and a greater whole.

The Video for Change framework adopts this perspective and recognizes that video campaigns enter an existing group of people and their work/efforts. Members of the affected community may be activists and leaders, and in organizations and coalitions, but they also may be outside of these structures. Therefore, the Video for Change framework emphasizes consideration of the affected community itself.

Short-Term Impacts Versus Long-Term Impacts

Defining impact is going to involve weighing up a set of priorities around process, outcome and long-term change, and being clear about who gets to decide this balance of prioritization.
Sam Gregory,

Witness

The Toolkit helps you capture and analyse both immediate short-term impacts and longer-term impacts.

Short-term impacts could include informing new audiences about an issue through screenings, building the capacities of social movements through training, or mobilising target audiences to take action (such as attending a rally or signing a petition).

Longer-term impacts, such as changing social attitudes or changing public policy or law, require multiple efforts over time by many different actors and stakeholders.

The Toolkit will help ensure your video campaign is useful not only to its producers but to directly and indirectly affected communities as well. This fosters a collaborative environment and context, making the impact reach wider and last longer.

Watch Anna Har of Freedom Film Network talk about the impact assessment of a video for change initiative, seeking improved access to health services in Malaysia.

The Story of Kam Agong, A Case Study for an Impact Film on EngageMedia.

Impact, therefore, needs to be discussed and defined for each context. There is no simple or single Video for Change formula for success, but we have developed this toolkit to help you design the best formula for your initiative to be as effective as possible.

Consider this impact story from Indonesian Video for Change organisation Kampung Halaman and see how they define the impacts of a successful video campaign addressing the rights of religious minority groups.

Impact Story: Ahu Parmalim

A short documentary told through the lens of Carles, a young Ahu Parmalim follower, a religious minority group in Northern Sumatra. The video and its impact campaign inspired international debate on the rights of religious minorities in Indonesia.

Resources

Media Impact Project is active in the field of media impact measurement. This project studies stories in many forms — film, TV, games, art and news — and their effects on audiences.

The Impact Field Guide is a set of tools and guides designed to help those working with film to make an even greater impact. It was updated in 2019 with a Making and Moving Shorts section, which discusses impacts from short films.