Social Research and Impact Studies

Social Research and Impact Studies

IOA provides social research and impact studies through rigorous methodologies and deep African expertise to support informed decision making and sustainable social impact.

What is social research and impact studies?

Social research and impact studies entail thorough assessments of social phenomena, policies and interventions in order to understand their effects, foster positive change and inform strategic decision making. They involve:

  • Community needs assessment: Evaluating the needs, challenges and priorities of specific communities to inform development initiatives and resource allocation.
  • Stakeholder engagement and consultation: Facilitating dialogue and collaboration with stakeholders to ensure their voices are heard and incorporated into decision-making processes.
  • Impact evaluations: Assessing the effectiveness and impact of social programmes and initiatives to determine outcomes and areas for improvement.
  • Social trend analysis: Monitoring and analysing trends in social behaviours and attitudes to anticipate changes and inform strategic planning.

Some of the main benefits of social research and impact studies are:

Gain insights into community needs and preferences

Identify areas for policy and programme improvement

Inform strategic decision making and social initiatives

Enhance anticipation of and responces to emerging social trends

Optimise the impact of initiatives

Key questions that are answered by social research and impact studies

Social research and impact studies aim to answer key questions to guide strategic decision making:

  • What are the specific needs, challenges and priorities of the target community or population?
  • How effective are current social programmes, interventions and policies in addressing identified needs?
  • Are stakeholders effectively engaged and empowered in decision-making processes?
  • What are the social, economic and environmental impacts of implemented programmes or policies?
  • How can future initiatives be improved to better meet community needs and achieve desired outcomes?

In On Africa’s social research and impact study services

Alongside all of the business-oriented research and intelligence work that In On Africa (IOA) conducts on a daily basis, we also have a deep passion for social research that specifically aims to improve the lives of Africans. This passion dates back as far as 2004, when the company’s founder and CEO discovered his love for research during a five-year research study on the psychosocial well-being of HIV-infected pregnant women in South Africa.

Since 2007, IOA has consistently conducted a wide array of social research and impact studies both independently and for clients across the continent. These have covered topics like education, entrepreneurship and youth development, as well as healthcare, child sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Within education and youth development, in particular, IOA has conducted an in-depth analysis of the future of education in Africa on behalf of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation (see a summary report here) and a continent-wide impact assessment for the African Union and GIZ, which focused on youth exchange programmes (this summary report is here). IOA also headed up the large-scale youth research platform ‘Voices Unite’ from 2020-2022, which surveyed thousands of South African youths on a wide range of topics.

IOA has also invested substantial time and resources into entrepreneurship and SME development research through our social research arm. This has ranged from ongoing research work with partners like Heavy Chef Foundation (here you will find the large-scale survey of South African entrepreneurs) and SimplyBiz (the ‘Trading in Africa Toolkit’ for African SMEs is here) to in-depth research studies for clients like SME SA (see our South African SME landscape report here).

Social research and impact assessment project case study:

Impact assessment of a STEM2D education programme in South African schools


Junior Achievers South Africa (JASA)


South Africa


Quantitative surveys with 194 learners and in-depth qualitative interviews with 20 key informants (programme stakeholders, learners and teachers)

JASA engaged IOA to conduct an in-depth impact assessment of their science, technology, engineering, mathematics, manufacturing and design (STEM2D) education programme in schools across three South African provinces. This comprehensive assessment involved conducting in-depth stakeholder discussions with programme staff, partners and funders, conducting quantitative surveys with learners across the three target schools and running qualitative interviews with teachers and students within each school.

The survey specifically assessed knowledge and perceptions of learners who had attended all of the programme sessions, some of the programme sessions or had not participated at all. These surveys were completed through pen-and-paper, mobile phone, tablet or computer correspondence, depending on the available school resources.

The findings highlighted the programme’s positive influence on participant’s subject choices and career interests in STEM2D fields. Programme participants were also more aware of different careers in STEM2D and how to pursue those careers. The research also illuminated several ways the programme could be improved.

Key project outcome:

The impact assessment identified a number of important successes and areas of impact that have been achieved since the start of the programme, as well as outlined a number of specific operational challenges and strategic recommendations for improving the programme in the future.

Find out more about how IOA can assist you with social research and impact studies.

Read more about IOA’s various service offerings and examples of our past work.