Ways to think about impact

There are a number of ways to think about impact. Here are some of the ones we use regularly.

The BYP Group “hearts, minds and bodies” model of impact.

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This model helps us think in very concrete, real world terms about how a project makes people feel (hearts), think (minds) and what they do (bodies). We include ‘society’ because there is also a relational element to change - how your project affects the way people relate to and are in the world around them.

BYP Group’s relational model of impact

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At its core, art can be understood as part of a web of relationships - between art and itself, art and maker, art and audience, art and participant, participant and participant, maker and community, society and art, and so on. This is also a useful way of thinking about the impact of an arts experience, and also helps remind you of the various groups you might be influencing (and the impact you may want to measure for different groups).

A First Nations’ perspective on self and determinants of wellbeing

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This diagram is a “conception of self grounded within a collectivist perspective that views the self as inseparable from, and embedded within, the family and community.” © Gee, Dudgeon, Schultz, Hart and Kelly, 2013 Artist: Tristan Schultz, RelativeCreative.

Levers of change

I like to think about the levers we have to effect social change, or impact. In very broad brushstroke terms, we can think of the ways we try to change society as interventions at the individual/community level, and interventions at the societal level.

At the individual/community level, we might conduct arts projects and skills building programs which try to change society by empowering individuals, and sometimes communities, to change their own lives. This is typically the level at which arts organisations operate.

At the societal level, we might seek legislative or regulatory change e.g. minimum wages, a four-day working week, tobacco taxation, gun laws. This is the level that organisations like Get Up!. trade unions, or Amnesty International typically operate.

I like this model because it reminds us that we are operating in a larger context, which affects the success of our projects. For example this means that we can’t measure the success of an arts project by the number of jobs participants get afterwards - we can only look at their job readiness, or how many more applications they might make.

It also reminds us of our sometimes unexamined assumptions about the power of the individual to change the world, which can be quite a Western, coloniser concept (very Ayn Rand…). We can all benefit from looking at the broader context which individuals inhabit - the Bourdieusian “fields” which they operate within, and which limit / shape / create sources of power.