Different Models of Impact

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Different Models of Impact

Different models of Impact

The discussion thus far shows that models of impact, ways of measuring impact, vary between the ‘Global North’ (Western Culture) and ‘Global South’. Simply look at the difference between Indian based Video Volunteers (comment) in and USA based WITNESS (comment) in the Evaluating and Assessing Impact thread and it becomes clear.

Often, the predominant models of impact are based upon Western culture, which does not account for differing conditions in the ‘Global South’. Freedom of speech, freedom of press, differing political situations, availability of distribution channels, transparency of power relations, oppression, risks involved, and differing cultures all play a role in determining how impact is, or should be, measured.


  • Can you share experiences of ways you have measured impact which are unique to the specific context you were or are working within? 
  • What might models for measuring impact in the ‘Global South’ look like? How would they differ from those used in the ‘Global North’ or Western cultures?
Is it a simple North/South binary?

Hi Egbert - since WITNESS is being mischaracterized here as an exemplar of a Western organization which doesn't take into account variance of local circumstance (which I'm going to flatly note is incorrect, and a misread of my colleague's comment, and then move on to the substance of your important underlying question) maybe I should respond first.

I think that rather than a binary of a template of Global North vs a Global South (which you yourself argue against in terms of the multiple factors that might differ between contexts) can we understand it is as a range of factors, many of which you articulate that are applicable in both contexts and where the important question is who gets to decide what is impact, who gets to decide or have a say on managing risk and managing negative impacts, and how do we think about this when communities may not have as discrete, neat boundaries when we're talking about newer forms of social media-driven video4change.

I think there's probably more similarity between how different types of video4change organizations and entities and individuals measure - i.e. NGOs, citizen media activists, peoples' movements - and often this will reflect the organizational culture of those entities, the accountability to funders and constituents (and sometimes the misskew on this), and even the terms of what they work on (e.g. policy lobbying vs. commuity organizing). But I'm interested to hear what others share in terms of specific examples and if there is a generalizable North/South divide here.

Mea Culpa

Dear Sam,

It's quite humiliating reading it back now. My apologies, you are absolutely right. I have been at fault in the way I have written it down. In my opener it seem as if WITNESS is an example of a Western organization that doesn't take into account local circumstances and local culture, which is of course not true. Sarah's comment itself and the way WITNESS works make that very clear. I was trying to link the actual discussion taking place with my 2nd paragraph, where I raise questions regarding the different local circumstances and whether this could be seen as an opposition between the global 'North' and global 'South.' I took a very bad, overly simplifying, turn there. Again my apologies, it is not my intend to place WITNESS in a bad light. I am actually impressed with the great work you are doing and it's clear that WITNESS is not all an example of an organization that doesn't take into account local circumstances. 

Thankfully you directly jump into the more important content aspect, which is trying to understand who gets to decide what impact is, and whether there is such a 'North" 'South" divide. Plus maybe we should be asking ourselves whether there are in fact more similarities than differences.

What I intended to show, but wrote down rather unthoughtful, was how different Video Volunteers' model, with Community Correspondents who get paid for their impact videos, is from the model Sarah describes, where every six months there is a reflection on the captured qualitative stories and a check to see if everything's on track to meet the goals and whether there's a need to pivot the strategy. So the actual question is, and Sam is right in highlighting this, who gets to decide what impact is?  Hopefully we can focus on that, and see if there actually are general differences between the global 'South' and global 'North' in this, or whether it's really particular for each case, or maybe it's all just not so different after all.






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