Impact Planning

Impact planning is the first step of the social change strategy process. During this phase, we clarify the goal of your social impact project and create a theory of change that clarifies the causal links between your organization’s actions and the realization of those goals. The theory of change is then visualized in a logic model, which will guide implementation, measurement, and adaptation as your project progresses.

Theory of change Video

At DoBigGood, impact planning begins by helping you clearly state your strategy. One way to state that strategy is by creating a theory of change, a visualized set of expectations about how your actions will achieve your goal.

In this 5-minute video, you will learn about the many meanings of the term theory of change (idea, method, diagram, statement) and how they fit together to help you be more effective.


Logic Model worksheet

The ARC (Action ▶ Response ▶ Change) logic model is a simple theory of change diagram developed by DoBigGood for those just starting out in impact planning.

This free 2-sided worksheet includes:

  1. A diagram for you and your team to sketch out the basic assumptions of your social impact project

  2. A reverse side with examples and an “extra credit” activity on risk analysis


LOgic Model Video

Before you begin the ARC worksheet, check out this 4-minute video on logic models as a tool of impact planning.

It explains the theory behind the ARC (Action ▶ Response ▶ Change) model and explains why creating a logic model is such an important part of planning social impact.


Metrics Video

The last phase of impact planning is developing metrics, which is just a fancy was of saying “units of information.”

As you may have guessed, the purpose of metrics (and of collecting information) is to test the hypotheses in your theory of change. You’ll only learn the extent to which your guesses were right and be able to adapt if you collect this information.

The video above explains the five-step #DoBigGood method of developing impact metrics, which is to work backwards from your goal by flipping the goal into a question, focusing on the action verb, brainstorming many measurement options, and then filtering by information value and ease of collection to pick the best one.

Impact Implementation

Implementing a social impact project is all about adaptation. Because social change systems are complex, we cannot fully comprehend cause and effect relationships before we begin. We need to “sense into” our environment, running small tests and experiments as we go to see where our impact hypotheses are correct and where they need to be tweaked. Impact metrics and data inform us about the validity of these hypotheses, holding us accountable to improving our outcomes. Through this evidence-based and iterative process we move from initial hypotheses to achieving maximum impact.

Experimentation video

As guest expert Jessica Conrad explains above, there are no predetermined steps that enable us to achieve outcomes in these complex systems. However, although system behavior can’t be predicted, we can find the best path by making small and low-risk tests of our strategy and assumptions. In the video above, Jessica uses changing lanes to explain experimentation in social complexity. Testing assumptions, learning from the results, and adapting quickly are core to Do Big Good’s advisory services for clients implementing social impact projects.

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Cynefin Framework

Developed by Welsh business consultant David Snowden in 1999, the Cynefin (“habitat”) framework is a typology of social systems that provides comparative guidance about how to operate successfully in each.

Do Big Good’s evidence-based and adaptive approach to implementation is based on the understanding that social change systems are complex and require probing (experimentation) to identify pathways to success.

Further Reading

Our approach to impact planning and measurement is influenced by many sources, from a guide to after-action reviews published by the Department of Veterans Affairs to a book on behavior design written for corporate managers.

Because we want to increase strategic capacity beyond our client base, we are making these reference materials - and our notes - public through the citation management tool Zotero. You can view the DoBigGood bibliography online at: