Social Sector Office
Learning for Social Impact

What is social impact assessment?

Funders, social investors, non-profits, and social enterprises are united by a common goal: social change. To reach this goal, the social sector must identify what approaches work, and why.

The goal of social impact assessment is to drive improvements that increase the value of programs to the people they serve.  Social impact assessment helps organizations to plan better, implement more effectively, and successfully bring initiatives to scale. Assessment also facilitates accountability, supports stakeholder communication, and helps guide the allocation of scarce resources.

There is a great deal of debate on how to measure social impact, due in large part to the difficult nature of assessing social change. It takes money. It takes time. It takes imagination and creativity.

In spite of these challenges, social impact assessment is not only necessary, but critical. The social sector’s commitment is to serve its constituents and, while their lives cannot be measured in outputs and outcomes, they are ultimately the reason to assess our work.

Listen to four social sector leaders define and discuss the relevance of social impact assessment.

In this section

History of social impact assessment

A history of social impact assessment

Social impact assessment is more than a half century old, yet the debate over how to best measure social impact continues.


Social Sector Office

Social Sector Office Learning for Social Impact is a McKinsey Social Sector Office initiative. 

Philanthropic capital marketplace

How is the philanthropic capital market distinct from the for-profit market? Hear Jed Emerson of Blended Value discuss the implications for performance metrics.

Chance UK case study

Hear Tris Lumley speak about a Chance UK case study.

Key challenges

Tris Lumley speaks about key challenges facing foundations and nonprofit organizations.