Social Impact Assessment for Third Sector Organizations

Research Area:
Scientific coordinator: Sara Depedri
Project Manager: Sara Depedri

Project status: on-going


The recent Reform of the Third Sector (Law 106/2016) provides “Transparency and Information Obligations to Third Parties” in relation to the activities carried out (art.3) and Social Impact Assessment Processes for third sector organizations, defined as “Qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the effects of activities promoted on the local community over the short, medium and long run, with respect to the target groups identified.” The issue of social impact assessment is therefore today very actual, but it cannot be intended as just another legal obligation from third sector organizations. Evaluation must be conceived as a process that allows social enterprises to increase transparent communication with their stakeholders and the community as a whole, to share important information about its activity and its implications for the territory. Moreover, social impact assessment can allow social enterprises themselves to implement their knowledge and strategic planning.

With the purpose to identify adequate evaluation processes and methodologies for social impact assessment, Euricse tested and validated in the last years an index-and-indicators rating model, which is intended to be used as a reporting tool from individual organizations and as an evaluation tool also at aggregate level in consortia and territories to identify the social and economic impact of social cooperatives.

The research project is continuing with the aim of decoupling the model (called ImpACT) on other Third sector organizations, of replicating the survey in the same and in other territories, and of supporting social enterprises with a complete and automatic method for building their social reporting and impact assessment.


The research project had the initial goal of experimenting a new scientific methodology for social impact assessment. The choice was to avoid the pure monetization patterns of the social impact generated (and models like SROI) and to not reduce the evaluation to a single synthetic index. The methodologies was also built to avoid self-referentiality by investigated social enterprises on the one hand and the risk of failure to consider possible impact dimensions not provided by the initial programming of the organization. As a conclusion, the method has been scientifically based but shared with representatives organizations of the third sector. The related goal was therefore to apply the methodology in some territories and experimentally to some organizations to identify real and new dimensions of social impact and to give greater visibility to the results produced at economic and social level by social cooperatives on the community.

The project’s current objectives are: 1) to replicate the methodology in the same and additional territories by collecting best practices and creating aggregate datasets with more complex analysis and evaluation models that can create benchmarks; 2) to make available to social cooperatives and third sector organizations a software generated by Euricse for the automatic creation of social reporting reports (social accounting) and social impact assessment systems of their activities. Finally, the research aims to extend the ImpACT method from social cooperatives to other Third sector organizations or to other cooperative enterprises.

Main results

The main result achieved by the research project consists of the methodology implemented: the ImpACT method. It consists of a questionnaire addressed to organizations that have the purpose of gathering data in order to assess the organizational results and performances especially in terms of impact generated (following the logic of the impact value chain and by distinguishing between resources, activities and processes, services and outputs , well-being and outcomes, medium and long-term impacts); the methodology also includes questionnaires and interviews with stakeholders with whom social enterprises relate, in order to activate a participatory assessment process and to collect subjective data on relapses and changes to each stakeholders.

The ImpACT method was applied between 2015 and 2016 to 275 social cooperatives in three regions  in North-Italy. Questionnaires to individual stakeholders reached more than 1500 people, thus creating complex datasets. The analyses have allowed to describe the peculiarities of the social cooperation models in the three regions, to identify the results achieved, and to highlight the entrepreneurial relevance of most of social cooperatives analysed by the model, their high social impact and the various direct and indirect results achieved (e.g., in the regeneration capacity, in terms of effects on local public policies, network capacity, etcetera).

Finally, the analyses made it possible to verify that if the method is sufficiently standardized to allow all organizations to compete with the indexes achieved, on the other hand it is methodologically and conceptually a flexible method that can be appropriately recalibrated and adapted to individual projects (rather than for organizations), to specific areas, and to aggregates of different entities (individual organizations, consortia, networks …).

It is therefore the main project’s future objective and the expected result to reproduce the ImpACT method continuously, by offering support to third sector organizations and primarily social cooperatives for their social impact assessment and to consortia aggregate analysis across the territory.


Depedri, S., (2014), Non solo numeri: l’impatto sociale della cooperazione sociale in provincia di Treviso, Report di ricerca Euricse.

Depedri S. (2015) “Il nostro impatto sociale. Esiti della valutazione dell’impatto economico e sociale delle cooperative sociali trentine aderenti a Con.Solida”, Euricse Report, Ottobre

Depedri S. (2016) “La valutazione dell’impatto sociale nel Terzo Settore. Il posizionamento scientifico di Euricse e il metodo ImpACT” Euricse Position paper

Depedri S. e Turri S. (2016) “L’impatto economico e sociale della cooperazione sociale in Friuli Venezia Giulia. Primi processi di valutazione”, Rapporto di ricerca

Depedri S. e Turri S. (2016) “La cooperazione sociale in Veneto. Rendicontazione e valutazione dell’impatto sociale 2015”, Rapporto di ricerca



Confcooperative – Federsolidarietà Veneto

Confcooperative – Federsolidarietà Friuli Venezia Giulia

Legacoop Friuli Venezia Giulia

Cooperativa sociale Noncello

Consorzio COSM

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