General analytical methods
Useful when a similar intervention or program has been implemented or affected a group of beneficiaries before. Research is conducted on these previous actions and their results and then compared to the proposed program and its desired results. You can read more on comparative analyses here. Acumen lean data method can also be leveraged to compare research done already.
This method requires existing data over a period of time which can then be used to extrapolate a similar change rate forecasting into the future. If conditions have remained stable in the impact context and little changes have been made to an intervention or program this method of forecasting could be relevant.
For programs or interventions that deal with variables which are affected by population growth, this method is quite useful to make inferences about changes in those variables. For example, number of low-income housing units needed is a variable that could be affected by population in a certain area. A population multiplier method can be used to predict need and therefore scope of a program.
The bedrock of most scientific studies, this method used to calculate whether the trends we see in our data are not simply the result of chance, that in fact there is a certain degree of probability that our intervention affected that change. You can read more about this method and how to implement it here.
A strategy-planning approach, scenarios ask organizations to create a number of possible futures (thinking of macro level trends) which provide models from which to base robust strategies in the face of these future possibilities. Also called scenario planning, the results help mitigate risk, better prepare for uncertainties, and in the context of the impact sector, create interventions better designed for the emerging needs of beneficiaries.
Analysis methods and observation tools
Who will be affected by the evaluation? By the program or intervention? These are your stakeholders. A stakeholder analysis asks these questions, maps those stakeholders, and allows you to develop strategies to manage relationships with each stakeholder group.
Participatory Rural Appraisal
Also called Participatory Learning for Action, this is a method which brings beneficiaries into the program development process using a variety of structured interactions to facilitate acquisition of information and the co-creation of solutions. This method has been used in agricultural communities mostly but has also been adapted to a variety of different contexts. The method helps ensure that the design and execution of a program is context-relevant and therefore more likely to be successful.
The method-of-choice in anthropological or sociological studies, it is also highly relevant as a social impact assessment tool for certain contexts. Qualitative data is collected in the form of field notes based on first-hand observation of a local context. Useful for gleaning insights on the nuances of a certain population (beliefs, day-to-day customs, etc.), such data is usually complemented with other data sources.
Semi-structured interviews and focus groups
Using a pre-written guide of thematic questions, these inquiry-based methods involve in-person conversations usually with the target community. The idea is to gently guide participants to speak about the topics at hand (of course, without prompting the responses one would like to hear).
As the name suggests, a needs assessment helps establish the needs of various stakeholder groups (usually beneficiaries, although it can also be conducted for internal stakeholders as well). The results can be used to implement changes in a current intervention or to design and introduce an intervention that is well adapted to its target context.
You may like to see 3 tips for managing impact measurement projects.