Social Impact Measurement for a Sustainable Future: The Power of Aesthetics and Practical Implications

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


Explicit attention on measuring social impact dates back to the 1970s; however, the fundamental ideas date back to the Renaissance era through notions of an ordered universe (Hornsby, 2012). The historical foundations of SIM have been revisited over the past decade, with UK governments focusing on establishing effective measurement practices (Hornsby, 2012). Definitions for social impact and social value contain subtle differences, with the definitions offered by Vanclay (2003) and Clifford et al. (2014) covering intended/unintended positive/negative consequences. For example, the potential to prevent harm relies on robust measurement in order to identify the negative consequences of interventions. Combining these definitions allows for identification of adjustments for alternative attribution, deadweight and drop-off (Hazenberg & Clifford, 2016). This edited book seeks to explore the history of social impact measurement, social impact measurement approaches, and offer justifications for the use of social impact measurement in modern society. Furthermore, the book seeks to uncover the tensions inherent in social impact measurement, especially between creating and measuring social value creation. As the world becomes ever more globalised in its focus to deliver sustainable solutions to social and environmental problems, frameworks such as the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide potential frameworks through which to assess and compare impact globally. Nevertheless, constructive critiques of such approaches are required to ensure that they do not misinform stakeholders, disenfranchise the disadvantaged and exacerbate existing social problems. In providing this overview, the book seeks to offer a theoretically critical review of the social impact measurement field centred on Weberian concepts of ‘empowerment’ and ‘social action’ (Weber, 1978), whilst also demonstrating best practice and potential pitfalls to policy-makers and practitioners globally. Each chapter will therefore explore a different facet of SIM, with special reference to the SDGs relevant to the chapter area and the global implications for better understanding social impact measurement. All chapters will make reference to ‘SDG17: Partnerships for the Goals’, as this is the key SDG underpinning the other 16 SDGs within the UN’s framework. In doing so, the book aims to both critique existing theory, policy and practice around SIM, whilst also offering solutions to identified problems to help improve the SIM and sustainable development sectors. Each chapter will begin with a textbox overview of the key features of the arguments to be made, and end with a synopsis of how the criticisms of SIM made can best be overcome.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Ltd.
Number of pages339
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-83151-6
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2021


  • Social Impact Measurement
  • Sustainability
  • Social Value


Dive into the research topics of 'Social Impact Measurement for a Sustainable Future: The Power of Aesthetics and Practical Implications'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • Social Enterprise UK

    Richard Hazenberg (Academic)

    1 Feb 2022

    Activity: Public Engagement and OutreachWork on advisory panels for social, community, cultural and industry engagementResearch

Cite this