How to develop compelling case studies and impact stories

July 21, 2021

Strategic communication and dissemination around your organization's impact is crucial. Yet, communication of evaluation or research findings related to social change and impact is often dry and decontextualized.

In our last webinar, Alexandra Pittman, Ph.D. (ImpactMapper) presented practical tips for crafting compelling case studies and impact stories to communicate research findings. Read on for 3 basic insights to consider when developing case studies. Register to watch the recording of the webinar here. To access the toolkit with questions to guide you, see here.  

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1. Be strategic: Identify your objective and your audience

A first step, which is often overlooked, is to identify the objective of your case study and your communication efforts. Is the objective to support learning from an evaluation through the case study? Are you aiming to increase fundraising or investment by profiling an organization's achievements?  Are you asking people to join a movement through insights into a social problem, solutions, and a call to action? Reflecting on these questions will help you develop an appropriate strategy and outline for the sort of data and analysis necessary.

Next, think about your audience. Who do you want to reach? How much time do these groups have? How do they usually consume information? What are their values and interests? Are they familiar with the type of language you intend to use? And what do you want them to get out of reading the case study? Failing to identify your audience can result in missed opportunities - no one likes long reports sitting on shelves.

2.Describe the contribution of an organization in context

As you describe contributions and achievements of an organization or movement, start by clearly articulating the problem they are tackling and the unique solution or strategy the group is engaging in. Contextualize the change. Tell us why it matters and craft a narrative that helps capture the complexity and nuance of that particular context.

Then, make clear the organization's role in the change process. In social change work, a variety of stakeholders come together to facilitate change processes, so it is important to articulate your role in the change process. What makes your contribution unique? Present outcomes and the role of an organization in detail, using plain language. To promote learning, share strategies that led to success, and also those that did not. Likewise, it is important to include which sources of evidence have been used to validate these outcomes. 

3. Profile the organization visually

Hook your audience as soon as they start reading by profiling the organization - visually. Rather than starting with an academic introduction, help your audience understand the focus of your case study by including a visual profile of the organization or intervention. Together with basic information from the organization, you can include quotes, visual theories of change, or multimedia materials.  

In our recent case studies for Pastoral  Women’s Council and International Women’s Development agency, we interweaved organizational profile information, reach numbers, images, quotes and video to contextualize the organization's work and achievements in a compelling way.  This also has the benefit of being able to reuse the case study material in different places, e.g., such as in social media, blogs or website updates.

If you are interested in working with us to produce case studies, evaluation or impact reports for your organization, reach out at:  If you want to hear about other creative ways to communicate your impact, sign up to our newsletter.

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