Social Impact Assessment: Guidelines for thriving regions and communities

A city council considered a programme of works to develop new cycle ways and improve public transport creating busways and bus stations along arterial roads. They wanted to understand the social impacts of these proposals in order to decide on preferred routes and an appropriate level of investment in facilities. The SIA helped with the selection of options for the cycling and bus routes, and with their designs and best locations.

Regional communities are experiencing social impacts from economic regeneration projects, including tourism infrastructure development, heritage conservation, irrigation and new land uses, and housing, but how are these impacts measured?

Building Better researchers Dr Nick Taylor, from Nick Taylor and Associates, and Dr Mike Mackay, from AgResearch, have recently published a comprehensive practical guideline to Social Impact Assessment (SIA) to help councils and community groups learn the basics about how to conduct an SIA, contribute to an SIA, use the results of an SIA, and judge if an SIA is fit for purpose.

“During our work, we encountered many community leaders who were keen to learn how to assess the social impacts of the plans they design, how to take this information and use it to make decisions, and then, overtime, evaluate the outcomes for communities,” says Nick.

When writing and testing the guidelines, the researchers drew on their research, practical experiences doing SIAs, the experiences of other professional SIA practitioners, and potential guideline users including: community organisations, iwi members, central government agencies, local government economic development and planning professionals, infrastructure providers, sector groups, evaluation practitioners, consultancies, students, and academics. An SIA looks at the potential impacts of change proposals (projects, policies, strategies, and/or plans) focusing on who is affected, where and how, and what might be done to improve the results in the short, medium, and long-term.

SIA provides a way for community groups and organisations to participate from early on in forming plans and making decisions. The reasons for doing an SIA are either because it is required through regulations, or as part of socially responsible development.

The researchers say they expect the guidelines will be useful for anyone proposing changes that affect people and communities, as well as those experiencing social impacts.

Read the guidelines

Taylor, C. N. & Mackay, M. (2022). Social Impact Assessment: Guidelines for thriving regions and communities. Report for Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities Thriving Regions, July 2022, 44pgs. Wellington: BBHTC.

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Date posted: 25 July 2022