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Blending practice worlds: Impact assessment as a transdisciplinary practice

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Abstract

Organisations with explicit social missions such as social enterprises, impact investors, nonprofits, and foundations are under increasing pressure to illustrate their impact on the social problems they claim to be addressing. These trends have resulted in an increasing sophistication of attempts to measure and report social impact across sectors. Despite the emerging literature on impact assessment, there is little research on how the growing emphasis on, and drive for, impact assessment is experienced in everyday organisational activities. This paper draws on practice theory to understand the purposes of impact assessment and how it influences, and is enacted in, everyday organisational activities. A multiple case design studies the purpose of impact assessment through qualitative interviews with over 90 practitioners within the Australian and United Kingdom impact investment ecosystems. The findings suggest that impact assessment should be understood as a transdisciplinary practice evolving from, and blending together with, multiple practice worlds such as strategy, accounting, marketing, and organisational learning. The main contributions of the paper are the development of the concept of impact assessment as a transdisciplinary practice and an empirical understanding of how impact assessment links to, and blends with, diverse practice worlds.
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Original languageEnglish
JournalBusiness Ethics-A European Review
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Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Apr 2019