Democratizing Social Impact at ChangeX

Oct. 23, 2019

Niamh McKenna

ChangeX has built a technology platform to democratize social change by spreading community-based ideas proven to address issues across the areas of health, environment, education and inclusion. A new Grow it Yourself (GIY) Group coming together to grow their own food, a new Men’s Shed where men are regularly meeting and carrying out projects, or a new Cycling Without Age Chapter where nursing home residents are participating in regular outings on a specially designed rickshaw are just a few examples of ChangeX project ideas.

Based in Ireland, ChangeX packages these ideas and makes them available to local communities along with the tools, support and financial resources necessary to get the ideas up and running locally. Over the last four years, more than 9,000 individuals and teams have started ideas from ChangeX, impacting more than 350,000 people both in Ireland and the U.S.

Building a movement for healthy communities

At ChangeX, our ultimate ambition is to activate 20 million teams around impactful ideas by 2030. We plan to do that by building a portfolio of ideas aligned with the United Nations’ (UN) Global Goals and equipping local community leaders with the information and resources they need to mobilize around those ideas. Goal 3 is Good Health & Wellbeing, which is one of our key priorities.

ChangeX SDG's

But how would you even know where to begin? For anyone looking to start a new idea, especially around Good Health & Wellbeing, the City Health Dashboard can be a helpful tool. Dashboard data can provide evidence and a baseline behind what community stakeholders often already know, illuminating challenges such as healthy food access, physical activity, and street safety, which are all covered in ChangeX’s portfolio of project ideas. Using this data, local changemakers can ground their ideas in the lived experience of the local community and create projects that resonate.

Spreading ideas to amplify impact

Between now and 2030, our plan at ChangeX is to identify, package and spread the 100 most impactful ideas that contribute to improving health and wellbeing at the community level. We’ve been lucky to work with wonderful partners in spreading ideas that contribute to the health and wellbeing of people in local communities. Examples of these successful partnerships include spreading ideas to build a culture of health with The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and building healthier communities in rural Minnesota with the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Fundamental to achieving our goal is accurately tracking our progress along the way. One of the key indicators we track is the number of “Active Starters.” An Active Starter is an individual or a team who successfully replicates one of the ideas from in their local community. The number of Active Starters is, in effect, our key output, the growth of which leads to social impact.

Inspired by the approach of the University of Wisconsin, in building their What Works for Health database, we use existing research related to a strategy or intervention to help us understand the expected outcomes as an idea replicates.

Let’s take GIY groups as an example. A wide array of academic research exists to show the positive impact of community food growing, both for the environment and for the individuals involved. While there isn’t extensive academic research on GIY particularly, the research identifies two key outcomes of community food growing, therefore allowing us to build a logic model, or an evaluation framework, for GIY:

GIY Logic Model

Closing the feedback loop

Once a new replication of one these projects is up and running for a certain period of time, we survey the project leader and participants to understand if the expected outcomes are in fact being achieved. Over time, this allows us to identify differences as they arise, perhaps due to context or geography, and also monitor impact over time.

We want to make it as easy as possible to gather feedback directly from those participating through the ChangeX platform. We’re looking at a number of ways to do this including SMS, automated surveys, and phone interviews. We’ve already been inspired by some of the work of Feedback Labs and Acumen in our approach.

Interested in becoming an Active Starter? Find out more and explore ideas for your community at

Niamh McKenna is the Co-Founder and Head of Impact at ChangeX.

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