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Welcome to our very first Impact Challenge! Before getting into the nitty-gritty of social issues and what you can do to help, we want to provide a general outline on what social impact is, what it means to various people, and how we can do better. At the Center, we are constantly communicating with our community partners to come up with more positive, equitable, and sustainable solutions. Needless to say, we revisit the drawing board many times. Before diving into the world of social impact, it’s important to recognize a few key concepts in order to truly make a difference in the world.

So….what is social impact anyway? The Center for Social Impact defines social impact as “a significant, positive change that addresses a pressing social issue.” This means that our impact addresses community-identified issue and commits to social change that is sustainable and just.

Social Impact is NOT something that you do to make yourself feel good, an idea or intervention with no research, something you do once then move on, or anything that causes harm. In fact, the very first rule of social impact is DO NO HARM. In addition to this essential value, we also implement the following behaviors into our philosophy:


  1. Study and understand historical contexts and systems.
  2. Acknowledge power dynamics and places where healing is needed.
  3. Consult communities and letting them lead.
  4. Behave ethically.
  5. Tell dignified stories.
  6. Use data to inform decisions.


Although direct service is the most well-known form of creating a social impact, it is actually one of several important tools to truly making a difference. We adopt these tools, known as the Six Pathways of Social Impact, as the framework for our programs. They include:


            Direct Service

            Community Engaged Learning & Research

            Social Entrepreneurship & Corporate Social Responsibility

            Policy & Governance

            Community Organizing & Activism



There is so much to learn, and we are thrilled to be helping you on your own journey to being a better educated citizen so that you can better empower yourself, your own community, and many other communities around you. For the next few weeks, we challenge you to find even just 5 minutes to learn more about social impact. Let us know what you’ve learned by contacting us through social media–we would love to hear from you!


If you have 5 min, we challenge you to:

Watch these short clips:

Read this article:


If you have 15 min, we challenge you to:

Watch these TED talks:

Read this article:


If you have 30 min, we challenge you to:

Watch these documentaries:

Do this activity:

  • Find two or three popular, local nonprofit organizations (particularly in the “voluntourism” industry) and do a quick impact evaluation. Use these questions as a guide:
  1. What is this organization's intervention? What are the short and long term outcomes?
  2. What are their main impact indicators/data points?
  3. Are the indicators and data vanity metrics or causal/actionable metrics?
  4. Relevance: Is this intervention meeting the recipient community’s needs? How do you know?
  5. Effectiveness: Is this intervention effective? How do you know?
  6. Efficiency: Are funds, expertise, time, equipment, etc. being used economically, ethically, and justifiably? How do you know?
  7. Impact: What are the positive and negative, intended and unintended outcomes you can see or predict?
  8. Sustainability: Is this intervention sustainable long-term? Will positive outcomes and benefit continue without major involvement of the visiting interveners? Is it economically feasible? Is it scalable and replicable?


In conclusion, who would you choose to donate to/promote/get involved with? Why?


If you have 1+ hours, we challenge you to:

Read these books:


The Long Haul :

  • Commit to researching organizations and evaluating their impact, and how they prove their impact, before donating to or collaborating with them.
  • Practice the first guideline to creating social impact: “Do no harm.”
  • Research concepts such as ‘intersectionality’, ‘equity-design thinking’, ‘white savior complex’, and ‘stakeholders in social impact’.
    • Here is a great paper published in 2016 about stakeholders in social impact measurement. Simply follow this link and request the full-text PDF.


If you have any questions about the concepts or challenges above, or if you want to share your experience in completing any of the challenges, email us at [email protected] or DM us on Instagram @uvusocialimpact.