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research report

Assessing the impact of multi-purpose community organisations

June 2011

Leila Baker, Mike Aiken, Helen Garforth, Lucy Heady


When we initiated this study, there was mounting pressure on community-based organisations to ‘demonstrate’ and ‘evidence’ that they had an impact. At the same time, government was showing renewed interest in the difference that organisations can make to their local areas. This is a report of a two year collaboration between researchers at IVAR and New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) and nine community organisations interested in finding new ways to assess the difference they make. The study was about community-based organisations determining for themselves how their impact should be assessed and about concentrating on the kinds of impact that they knew to be important to local people.   Our report concludes by proposing three principles for impact assessment:  

  1. Impact assessment needs a clear rationale and purpose
  2. Impact assessment needs to be fit for purpose
  3. Impact assessment needs to be jointly understood and designed by organisations and their funders.

In our report we argue that impact assessment is challenging and that there is no single approach that will suit all contexts. This short and accessible study report offers a tried and tested way of thinking about impact assessment, but confirms that there are no easy or ‘quick fix’ solutions.


(Assessing the impact of multipurpose community organisations 2011)

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