Compelling, credible, recent, direct impact data
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Criteria for inclusion

Wed, 10/26/2022 - 08:54


People and organisations engaged in social change and behaviour change processes, strategies and actions we are often asked" "do they work?'; what is their impact"; what evidence is there for making a contribution to progress on national and local development goals"; how they contribute to the struggles to achieve the SDGs"[ and, other similar questions.

At the same time we are all seeking to both fund, sustain, expand the social change and behaviour change action we are undertaking and striving to ensure our learning and perspectives are more influential in development policy making be that at local, national, regional or global contexts.

There is a common feeling in our field of work that these two dynamics could be linked. That the availability of more compelling and credible impact data would help facilitate expanded levels of funding and policy engagement.

UNICEF wanted to take a fresh look at this issue. It asked The Communication Initiative to be involved.  

The key driving principles for the work that resulted, and continues, was to identify impact data would meet two requirements:

A. Viewed by donors and policy makers as highly credible according to their understanding of what constitutes credibility

B. Supports everyone in our common field of work to review and plan their work in the light of highly credible impact data.   

As guidance for identifying high credibility impact data we agreed these criteria:

1. Direct impact on a priority development issue - that there is a positive change or trend in a priority development issue.

2. Social change or behaviour change strategy or process - that there is a direct relationship between a social change and behaviour change strategy and that positive change

3. Randomized Control Trial or Systematic Review methodology - these are the most credible methodologies for most funders and policy makers (and the ones that have most difficult arguing against) and they also, alongside qualitative research, provide highly credible data to inform improved strategies and action.

4. Journal published in a high quality peer review journal - the peer review process, particularly in journals that have earned significant respect and are not automatically associated with our field of work, is crucial for establishing credibility and value

5. Numeric impact data point - in challenging policy and funding environments a number - eg X% - really helps if only to open doors for more substantive engagement. There is something about a number.

6. Published in last 10 years - it was regarded as important to have recent research so that the "out of date" or "too old" arguments could not be applied.


Various journal sources


Good range of criteria which covers the main areas of contention by donors. RCTs always a challenge in resource constrained settings but l note some innovative approaches for establishing control groups and even eliminating the need for pre-post intervention surveys which can be too costly in resource constrained settings.

Peer reviewed high impact H-index A or B grade journals as identified on is recommended for publishing of methods and findings. This will verify the high degree of academic rigor applied to the studies and elevate previous low grade SBCC programs to a higher status and improve credibility of findings.

Percentages are always a challenge in measuring behavioural impact although they can provide indicators of a range of other behavioural determinants in the early days of programming which may lead to significant behavioural changes leading to a % reduced morbidity and mortality from a condition. I presume donors would also be favorably predisposed to changes in specific behaviors which reduce risk as an impact measure.

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Why the focus on direct impact data?

A common challenge from policy makers, funders, community members, people directly experiencing development issues, and governments is: Demonstrate your Impact. Prove that what you are doing works. The high quality, highly credible data presented on the cards below is designed to help you answer that question for your social change, behaviour change, community engagement, communication and media for development, strategy formulation, policy engagement and funding initiatives. At this link filter the research data to your specific interests and priorities

Why a playing cards design?

There is a physical pack of cards with this data (to get a copy please request through the comment form for any card). The card approach allows for easy identification and selection of relevant direct impact data in any context. For example if talking with a donor and you need to identify proof of impact say "take a look at the 7 of Hearts". Quick access can be provided to high-quality data for many areas of your work – funding, planning, policy, advocacy, community dialogue, training, partner engagement, and more. A card deck is also engaging, easy to use and share, a conversation starter, and a resource - and they are fun and different. So we kept that design for the online images as it can serve similar purposes. 

What are the criteria for inclusion?

The impact data presented meets the following high standard for inclusion criteria:

  • Positive change or trend in a priority development issue;
  • Social change or behaviour change strategy or process;
  • Randomized Control Trial or Systematic Review methodology;
  • High quality peer review journal published;
  • Numeric impact data point
  • Published since 2010.