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2 minutes to read Posted on Wednesday November 1, 2023

Updated on Thursday May 23, 2024

portrait of Nicole McNeilly

Nicole McNeilly

Impact Advisor , Europeana Foundation

Designing for impact: Phase one of the Impact Playbook

Europeana started talking about impact over a decade ago, and as we celebrate the launch of a revised and now online Impact Playbook, we want to bring you along on the journey. We’re exploring each of the four Playbook phases in an introductory series here on Europeana Pro - read on to discover Phase one, which focuses on impact design.

Trees in autumn with orange leaves
Sügisene Tamsalu
Lember-Bogatkina, Valli
Eesti Kunstimuuseum

What do we mean by impact?

Impact is the change(s) that occur for stakeholders or in society…

We want to contribute to a better world - think of things like reduced poverty, more tolerance, more well being or happiness - but this vision is abstract and so high-level that we alone can’t be accountable for this.

…as a result of our activities (for which the organisation is accountable).

The impact vision drives what we do. We create activities that help us contribute towards this big picture - and we are accountable for those activities creating a positive change with the stakeholders that we design them for.

What do we mean by impact design?

We mean design in two ways. In Phase one of the Europeana Impact Playbook, we set out a methodology that helps you design impactful activities by putting your desired impact and the needs of your stakeholders right at the centre of your planning. In Phase two, we share an approach to designing your impact assessment and starting to measure the change that your stakeholders experience.

Why should you put your impact first?

The new online Impact Playbook sets out a streamlined approach to working with your colleagues to agree your impact vision and create a path through which you think your activities contribute to this. It helps us to focus on trying to better understand what changes you create when they happen close to us and directly as a result of our actions.

Most organisations have an organisational mission statement or vision. If you are working as part of a standalone project, you might have a different impact vision that you’re working towards, for example, if you are funded to meet a certain policy objective. If you don’t know what impact you’re working towards, the Impact Playbook can help you to start articulating this and then planning for how to reach it. You can use our Strategic Perspectives tool to help you understand what problem you are trying to solve and where you think you can have the most impact.

How can you put your stakeholder at the centre?

Our approach puts your stakeholder at the centre by making you answer the question, who are you doing this for? By mapping out those groups of people who benefit directly and indirectly from your activities, you can start to better understand the types of changes they’ll experience as a result of your work. You can also start to get to know the pains and gains of the stakeholder better by doing some empathy mapping.

How and why should you map out your change?

The Impact Playbook is centred around a tool called the Change Pathway. This helps us create a path from our stakeholder, the activities we design for them, and the impact that we are trying to create. In the middle, we map out the type of changes - the outcomes - that our stakeholders have to experience so that we contribute to the impact vision.

Once you know what impact you’re working towards, and who you are creating change for in the shorter term, it’s now time to map out the outcomes that you want your stakeholder to experience as a result of your activities. Focus on one activity and one stakeholder per Change Pathway because different activities can lead to different outcomes for different people.

Change Pathway template
Europeana Foundation

You might have developed a new technological feature that makes it easier to access your heritage content - so what? How does this change the experience of your user? What do they feel or think? Outcomes are changes experienced by people - so asking the question ‘so what’ is usually helpful! If you get stuck, we use the Value Lens to think about the types of value that are most commonly connected with the experience of interacting with digital cultural heritage.

It’s important to remember that while we might map change out in a linear way, it’s not always linear or predictable. It might not always be (as) positive, either - and it’s important to acknowledge this, particularly when you are reporting on your findings (in Phase three).

How do I get started?

We recommend starting at the start. Take a look at our introduction piece on Europeana Pro and explore the online Impact Playbook. Don’t worry if some of this terminology is confusing - check out our guide to Impact Terminology and do the short learning exercises!

The approach we set out has been collaboratively developed and tried and tested, but we always love to hear what you think. Email us at [email protected] to tell us how you’re using it, what you like or what could be improved.

Where can I learn from others who are using the Playbook?

On Europeana Pro, you can find examples of how we have used the Impact Playbook in the Europeana Initiative and how others are using it to better understand the impact of their projects. You can join the Europeana Impact Community to become part of a community of impact practitioners - from the beginners to the experts!