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Impact factors in social organisations

Realistic Evaluation, Qualitative Comparative Analysis and Impact Models

At a glance

  • Project leader : Prof. Dr. Sigrid Haunberger
  • Project team : Fiona Gisler, Dr. Zuzanna Kita, Dr. Larissa M. Sundermann, Angela Wyder
  • Project budget : CHF 350'040
  • Project status : completed
  • Funding partner : SNSF (SNF-Projektförderung / Projekt Nr. 176421)
  • Contact person : Sigrid Haunberger


Together with 23 social organisations, the SNSF-project WIFASO develop tools and impact models to make visible effects and impact factors.

Starting situation

Social organisations and institutions are increasingly facing the challenge of legitimising their courses of action (for example, vis-à-vis their funding agencies) and of being able to identify impact factors (success factors) of their work in their consulting, supervisory and support services. The focus is not only on finding out whether a service has been successful or not but on identifying the impact factors that have led to the success. Key considerations are: Why, for which target group and under what conditions is successful impact achieved? This is the starting point for the project. The social organisations involved in the project operate in the areas of state welfare, debt consulting, labour market integration and probation and law enforcement services.

Project objectives

Working with the participating organisations, we develop tools to present the impact factors of the work undertaken in the consulting, supervisory and support services in each organisation. In addition to a specific tool to measure impact factors, we develop impact models designed to systematically interconnect the identified impact factors and results.  

Methodical approach

In order to collect impact factors, we selected a multi-methodical approach. Literature reviews will be conducted for each field of action. In addition, staff members of the organisations will be interviewed (expert interviews). Furthermore, we will apply an online survey. To verify the impact models gained in the project, we will use the Delphi-Method.

Anticipated results

Overall, the project findings are expected to be equally significant for the participating social organisations and for evaluation research.

Benefits for practice

In the course of the project, the participating social organisations and institutions receive tools which allow them to measure impact factors in their respective organisation and to present interconnections between these factors. Both the impact models and the evaluations, which provide a breakdown of the working area of each organisation, can be used by the participating organisations in their strategic and operational considerations. In the long term, they also contribute to the effectiveness and professionalism of the respective organisation. For example, an impact model can show which services are offered, which factors lead to success and what impacts are achieved. This plays an essential part in success and failure analysis.

Benefits for science

From the scientific point of view, the project represents evaluation-based research in which a promising framework is modelled empirically (realistic evaluation) and, at the same time, innovative analysis methods (qualitative comparative analysis) are applied to model the impact factors and impact models.