Think differently

2019

20 June

Deep Impact – effects in their wider context

“Impact” has in recent years advanced to a veritably magical term on the foundation and social entrepreneurship scene. The concomitant hope of being able to produce, evidence and communicate impact in projects corresponding to prior expectations
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20/06/2018

Deep Impact – effects in their wider context

“Impact” has in recent years advanced to a veritably magical term on the foundation and social entrepreneurship scene. The concomitant hope of being able to produce, evidence and communicate impact in projects corresponding to prior expectations exerts an indubitable attraction on many of those involved in this field. And through influential protagonists the topic has acquired the status of a must-have. What’s involved here is discursive sovereignty for implementing a mission statement – and sources of revenue as well.
It began very simply with the introduction of the term “impact” in the relevant discourses. Impact soon no longer sufficed for some protagonists, and so the semantic intensifications of “social impact” and “collective impact” came into play, to then be overtaken by “global impact”. In the not-too-distant future, we can expect “universal impact” to be added. Some wordsmiths will presumptively employ amplified terminological conceptuality in order to enhance perceived importance and reputational status. Others, by contrast, may perhaps be quite unpretentiously interested in control-relevant information for future action.
Beyond the motivational context, it has to be asked whether the term can deliver on what it promises. If we stick with the semantic origins, then according to the dictionary “effect” means “the result or outcome of a cause”. In this generalized context, to misquote Watzlawick: “In a world of interdependences, you cannot not have an effect.” Can we tease out effects from there as consequences entailed by causes and assign them to particular influencing variables when we are dealing with complex causational interrelationships, side-effects, retroactive effects, consequential effects, etc.? Correlations can always be found between everything that is quantifiably examined, if we postulate that you cannot not have an effect. These correlations may perhaps even be correct – but they may also be totally wrong. No one can decide this, not even the acquirers (or inventors) of these data. Because alternative interpretations are always possible, and in most cases there will be some you hadn’t even thought of.

To play the game of semantic amplification, here’s another suggestion: “deep impact”. Many of you will be familiar with this term from the eponymous film in which humanity is threatened by a comet hurtling towards Earth. Part of it strikes the planet and causes considerable damage. However, a cataclysmic disaster can be averted. It is for others to decide whether due to the associations entailed by the film, “deep impact”, once unleashed as a guiding concept through the foundation and social entrepreneurship scene, would be a destructive comet, by which the concerns favored with support would ultimately be exposed to an annihilative force due to preoccupation with their “deep impact” – or whether it can be a fascinating lodestone contributing towards the dissemination of innovative ideas. But before someone picks up on this idea and postulates “deep impact”, this needs careful consideration!

Dr. Karl-Heinz Imhäuser, Carl Richard Montag Förderstiftung