MG4H3E      Half Unit
Social Impact and Its Evaluation

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Julian Le Grand Marshall Institute, 5 Lincoln's Inn Fields, Dr Jonathan Roberts Marshall Institute, 5 Lincoln's Inn Fields and Dr Eva Neitzert Marshall Institute, 5 Lincoln's Inn Fields


This course is compulsory on the Executive MSc in Social Business and Entrepreneurship. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

Those who want to improve society face three immediate dilemmas – first, what is the public benefit? How can I define, with clarity, my moral purpose? Second, how can I decide between different courses of action in order to pursue the public benefit? And third, how can I know that what I do makes any real contribution to the public benefit? What is the evidence? This innovative course sets out to support students in coming to their own resolutions of these dilemmas.  Its goal is to introduce the concepts and techniques of impact measurement from the perspective of - and through specific examples of interest to – organisational leaders and policymakers and those who intend to commission social business and social enterprise interventions.

A first section challenges students to consider and discuss the nature of the public benefit. It introduces students to different philosophical conceptions of the good, including libertarianism, utilitarianism, Rawls’ theory of justice and Sen’s capabilities approach. It will also discuss whose conception of the good is the more important: the actor or agent, the beneficiary, the government or the wider society.

Our choices of outcomes and impact measures are in turn not neutral, but are infused with moral choices about the definition of the public good. The second (and larger section) of the course introduces students to key concepts and skills in developing and assessing evidence of social impact.  It aims to equip students with the ability to be intelligent commissioners of interventions for the public good and critical assessors of evidence and published research. Concepts to which students will be introduced include the distinction between correlation and causation, the counterfactual, opportunity costs, trade-offs, spill overs and substitution effects. Students will be introduced to techniques through which the effectiveness of social interventions can be evaluated, including randomised experiments, quantitative evaluation of non-experimental data, cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analyses and realistic evaluation approaches; the strengths and weaknesses of these methods are considered. It will also consider the politics of impact measurement and how to ensure that evaluation enables continuous improvement.


Ten sessions of three hours each, delivered across two modules (teaching blocks).

Formative coursework

One formative assessment will be provided - a critical assessment of an evaluation report (1,500 words). 

Indicative reading

  • Glennerster, R. and Takaarasha, K. (2013).  Running Randomised Evaluations: A Practical Guide.  Princeton: Princeton University Press
  • Layard, R. and S. Glaister (1994). Cost-Benefit Analysis.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • McAskill, W. (2016) Doing Good Better: Effective Altruism and a Radical New Way to Make a Difference.   London: Guardian Books.
  • Mill, J.S. (1859/2006).  On Liberty.  London: Penguin
  • Nussbaum, M. (2011). Creating Capabilities. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
  • Pawson, R. and N. Tilley (1997). Realistic evaluation. London: Sage.
  • Rawls, J. (1971), A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press


Coursework (100%).

Assessment will be through an individual coursework assignment.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

Key facts

Department: Management

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills