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Social Impacts

Major events have the potential to have positive effects on the people and communities that interact with them. They have the power to mobilise large numbers of people and create meaningful impacts on their lives in a number of different ways. This might simply be the creation of an enjoyable or pleasurable experience for spectators or, at an advanced level, this might be the creation of an opportunity that positively changes people’s long-term behaviour.  It may also be the intangible contribution to the culture and heritage of the host destination.

Non-economic outcomes can have a significant effect on communities but require strategic approaches for presenting corporate social responsibility opportunities to sponsors; the timeframe for sport development, education and awareness programmes; and a commitment to research to include such outcomes. In noting triple-bottom-line approaches to event evaluation, a social return on investment (SROI) analysis can help measure and illustrate the social value of an event to justify public investment.

1. Planning Social Impact

Meaningful social impacts attributable to an event are unlikely to happen by chance and must be managed if they are to occur. The starting point in delivering specific social impacts is for an event to have clearly stated objectives, target audiences they want to influence and describe the delivery mechanisms by which the planned impacts will occur, prior to the event taking place.

Delivering meaningful long-term social impacts requires long term management, therefore aligning existing social initiatives and delivery mechanisms to high-profile major events can be highly effective for event hosts.

Like other areas of impact, in assessing the net social benefit, hosts need to take account of the negative impacts, such as disruption to daily life or the impact of the relocation of some residents for the construction of new infrastructure.

2. Possible Outcomes

Social impact, as defined by the International Association of Impact Assessment, can be defined in many ways but the areas most relevant to events are;

a. Community Development – Events can act as catalysts for improving local residents’ self-image of the community in which they live and for making a positive contribution to their quality of life. The inspirational effect of events can have a lasting effect in a number of different ways (described below), therefore events have the most impact where they are able to communicate this inspirational effect to the largest possible audience.

Example Outcome KPIs
Research published in the Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events summarised the following areas for key indicators to be included in surveys of local residents to establish their agreement that events have had social impact;

• Community quality of life –the general impact on the perceived conditions under which community residents live
• Community pride –the impact on community residents’ sense of pride from living in a locality where the event takes place
• Social capital –the impact an event has on community residents’ social networks and networking opportunities (e.g. does the event offer opportunities to meet and interact with event visitors or other community residents?)
• Sense of community – the impact an event has on community residents’perceived sense of cohesion following an event
• Community capacity enhancement – the ways in which an event provides opportunities for community members to build competency (e.g. new systems and processes for city organisations, non-governmental bodies and commercial sponsors to work together on future civic projects)

b. Health & Wellbeing – The case for financial support for staging large scale events is often be based on the expectation that the event will act as a catalyst for long-term behaviour change, with subsequent improvements to physical and mental health, and overall wellbeing of citizens.

Example Outcome KPIs
To establish meaningful measures of impacts on populations, longitudinal research needs to be carried out over a period prior to, and after, the event, to assess;

• Proportion of the population (local or national) who agree the event contributed to;
– improvements in physical or mental health, or overall wellbeing
– skills and educational attainment
• Long-term growth in sport/arts participation by target segments of the population
• Financial savings from any resulting increase in participation, e.g. healthcare savings,
productivity gains and crime prevention

c. Human Rights – Due to the national and international media exposure of major events, they can have the capacity to impact the human rights of communities in host areas and beyond. Looking back over time there are examples of where major events have been milestones in changing public perceptions, and ultimately the legal rights of citizens.

Example Outcome KPIs

• New standards for equal opportunity in place in host communities or nationally, e.g. for disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation
• Changes in public attitudes to minority represented groups

Detailed Social Impact Assessments can also be carried out to assess long-term intended and unintended consequences of an event, both positive and negative. They can quantify the long-term return on investment from social interventions alongside the event, in financial terms.

3. Inputs

a. Public Engagement – Large scale events can generate interest amongst local residents much wider than just ticket holders. Event organisers, public authorities or event sponsors can stimulate interest and goodwill in the build-up to an event through a programme of public activities and media engagements. Examples include trophy tours, torch relays and cultural festivals alongside sporting events.

Example Input KPIs

• Volume of audience from news media coverage
• Proportion of local residents attending public events linked to the event
• Total volume of audience stating the event has had a positive inspirational effect

b. Related Participation Programmes – For many events, organisers and public authorities design and deliver programmes of “outreach” activity to encourage changes in behaviour of target groups to generate long-term health benefits. These are often “taster” sessions to encourage long lasting participation in sport or arts amongst young people or segments of the population that are historically less involved (e.g. socially disadvantaged). The programmes can be targeted at local residents, whole nations or specific international communities.

Example Input KPIs

• Number of attendees from target groups participating in event-related programmes
• Proportion of event attendees or the viewing audience inspired to participate more in sport/arts
• Increase in membership of local sports or community clubs

c. Volunteering – The successful delivery of many sporting and cultural events relies on the support of volunteers. In addition to short-term satisfaction, volunteering can help people develop skills which can enable them find work or improve their career prospects.

Example Input KPIs

• Number of volunteers from the host area (e.g. city, region and/or country)
• Number of volunteers from targeted segments of the local population e.g. those with a disability or on low income
• Proportion of volunteers likely to volunteer in the future

d. Workforce – Some major events generate significant levels of employment during the preparation and delivery of the event, and therefore provide an opportunity to positively impact host communities. There is also a risk of negative impacts from poor employment practices or conditions linked to the construction of new infrastructure.

Example Input KPIs

• Proportion of workforce from target representation groups (e.g. local, minority groups)
• Equal opportunities policy in place
• Gender equality pay ratio (or other fair pay indicators)
• Number of work placement/intern opportunities created for target groups

e. Home Performance – Individuals or teams performing in front of their own supporters can lead to improved performance, and in turn lead to significant national or local civic pride. Recognising this, some host organisations have this a motivating factor for hosting international events and develop programmes to focus on maximising the benefit of this ‘home field advantage’.

Example Input KPIs

• Increased inclusion of local individuals or teams in qualifying schedules or rosters
• Increase in finish position of local individuals or teams in competition results



This STUDY commissioned by Doncaster Council and developed by Leeds Beckett University on the social impacts of the Tour de Yorkshire aligns with the areas above and assesses community wellbeing, sense of civic pride, sense of community spirit and physical activity levels. This including exploring the nature of community engagement in the TdY and how it could be increased.


4. Glossary of Terms

Behaviour change
Transformation or modification of human behaviour which, for events, leads to positive changes in public policy objectives.

Community wellbeing
Wellbeing, put simply, is about ‘how we are doing’ as individuals, communities and as a nation and how sustainable this is for the future. Subjective wellbeing describes personal wellbeing in terms of the feelings, experience and sentiments arising from what people do and how they think. (See more on the ‘what works wellbeing’ website).

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO 2002) defined culture as “the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group, and that it encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs”.

Human Rights
Rights inherent to all humans beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.

Social Impact
The International Association of Impact Assessment ( states that a convenient way of conceptualising social impacts is as changes to one or more of the following;

• people’s way of life – that is, how they live, work, play and interact with one another on a day-to-day basis
• their culture – that is, their shared beliefs, customs, values and language or dialect
• their community – its cohesion, stability, character, services and facilities
• their political systems – the extent to which people are able to participate in decisions that affect their lives, the level of democratisation that is taking place, and the resources provided for this purpose
• their environment – the quality of the air and water people use; the availability and quality of the food they eat; the level of hazard or risk, dust and noise they are exposed to; the adequacy of sanitation, their physical safety, and their access to and control over resources
• their health and wellbeing – health is a state of complete physical, mental, social and spiritual wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity
• their personal and property rights – particularly whether people are economically affected, or experience personal disadvantage which may include a violation of their civil liberties
• their fears and aspirations – their perceptions about their safety, their fears about the future of their community, and their aspirations for their future and the future of their children

Sense of civic pride
According to Collins (2016, p175) civic pride is “an emotion that refers to a feeling of self-worth or self-respect and the different ways people value or praise their identity or community”.

Sense of community spirit
According to Jamieson (2014) sense of community spirit is the ‘social glue’ that holds people together in families and communities and gives them a sense of belonging.

Social Return on Investment
Social Return on Investment (SROI) is a framework for measuring and understanding the non-market economic, social and environmental value of an activity, intervention, policy or organisation. SROI is a technique that is gaining acceptance amongst social policy makers and is increasingly being used across a wide range of policy areas, especially by public agencies and third sector organisations, to measure social value and to justify public investment (definition by Sheffield Hallam University – Sport Industry Research Centre).

Social Impact Assessment
The International Association for Impact Assessment states “Social impact assessment includes the processes of analysing, monitoring and managing the intended and unintended social consequences, both positive and negative, of planned interventions (policies, programs, plans, projects) and any social change processes invoked by those interventions. Its primary purpose is to bring about a more sustainable and equitable biophysical and human environment.”

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