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) introduces “Transparency and Information Obligations to Third Parties” for third sector organizations (art.3) and requires them to carry out Social Impact Assessment Processes, defined as a “Qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the effects of their activities on the local community over the short, medium and long run.” The issue of social impact assessment is therefore very important, but it should not be seen as just another legal obligation for third sector organizations. Evaluation should rather be conceived as a process that allows social enterprises to increase transparent communication with their stakeholders and the community as a whole, and to share important information about their activities and the implications for their community. Moreover, social impact assessment can help social enterprises improve their knowledge base and strategic planning process.

With the purpose of identifying adequate evaluation processes and methodologies for social impact assessment, Euricse tested and validated in recent years an index-and-indicators rating model. This model can be used by individual organizations for reporting purposes, and by consortia or federations in order to measure the social and economic impact of social cooperatives at the aggregate level.

The research project is continuing with the aim of applying the model (called ImpACT) on other Third sector organizations, of replicating the survey over time 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 with a new scientific methodology for social impact assessment. The choice was to avoid the pure monetization of social impact (e.g. in models like SROI) and to not reduce the evaluation to a single synthetic index. The methodology 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 on the other. The method has a scientific base and was refined with the input of representative organizations of the third sector. It was initially applied experimentally in some territories and to some organizations in order to identify the relevant dimensions of social impact and to give greater visibility to the economic and social results obtained by social cooperatives.

The project’s current objectives are: 1) to replicate the methodology over time and in additional territories by collecting best practices and creating aggregate datasets with more complex analysis and evaluation models that can create benchmarks; 2) to release a software that would enable social cooperatives and third sector organizations to automatically generate social accounting and social impact assessment reports. Finally, the research aims to extend the ImpACT method from social cooperatives to other Third sector organizations and to other types of cooperative enterprises.

Main results

The main result achieved by the project is the methodology that was implemented: the ImpACT method. This methodology consists of a questionnaire designed to assess the performance of the organization in terms of generated impact (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 the various stakeholders of social enterprises, in order to activate a participatory assessment process and to collect subjective data on outcomes and impacts on each stakeholder.

The ImpACT method was applied between 2015 and 2016 to 275 social cooperatives in three regions in Northern Italy. Questionnaires to individual stakeholders reached more than 1500 people, thus creating rich datasets. The analyses described the peculiarities of the social cooperation models in the three regions and highlighted the various direct and indirect results that have been achieved (e.g in terms of effects on local public policies, network capacity, etcetera).

Finally, the analyses verified that the methodology is flexible enough to be adapted to the measurement of social impact of individual projects, individual organizations, consortia, networks, etc.

It is therefore the main project’s future objective and the expected result to replicate the ImpACT method by offering support to third sector organizations (primarily to social cooperatives) for their social impact assessment and to consortia for an aggregate analysis across their community.


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


People involved

Last publications

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