Social impact assessment

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Social impact assessment (SIA) is a methodology to review the social effects of infrastructure projects and other development interventions. Although SIA is usually applied to planned interventions, the same techniques can be used to evaluate the social impact of unplanned events, for example disasters, demographic change and epidemics.

Definition[edit]

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The origins of SIA largely derive from the environmental impact assessment (EIA) model, which first emerged in the 1970s in the U.S, as a way to assess the impacts on society of certain development schemes and projects before they go ahead - for example, new roads, industrial facilities, mines, dams, ports, airports, and other infrastructure projects. In the United States under the National Environmental Policy Act, social impact assessments are federally mandated and performed in conjunction with environmental impact assessments.[1] SIA has been incorporated into the formal planning and approval processes in several countries, in order to categorize and assess how major developments may affect populations, groups, and settlements. Though the social impact assessment has long been considered subordinate to the environmental impact assessment, new models, such as the Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), take a more integrated approach where equal weight is given to both the social and environmental impact assessments.[2]

Contents[edit]

Definitions for "social impact assessment" vary by different sectors and applications. According to the International Association for Impact Assessment, "Social impact assessment includes the processes of analyzing, 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."

SIA overlaps with monitoring and evaluation (M&E). Evaluation is particularly important in the areas of:

  1. public policy,
  2. health and education initiatives, and
  3. international development projects more generally, whether conducted by governments, international donors, or NGOs.

In all these sectors, there is a case for conducting SIA and evaluations at different stages.

The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol is a sector specific method for checking the quality of environmental and social assessments and management plans.

Non-experts and local people should participate in the design and implementation of proposed developments or programmes. This can be achieved in the process of doing an SIA, through adopting a participatory and democratic research process. Some SIAs go further than this, to adopt an advocacy role. For example, several SIAs carried out in Queensland, Australia, have been conducted by consultants working for local Aboriginal communities who oppose new mining projects on ancestral land.[citation needed] A rigorous SIA report, showing real consequences of the projects and suggesting ways to mitigate these impacts, gives credibility and provides evidence to take these campaigns to the planning officers or to the courts.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tilt, Bryan; Braun, Yvonne; He, Daming (2009). "Social impacts of large dam projects: A comparison of international case studies and implications for best practice". Journal of Environmental Management. 90: S250. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2008.07.030. 
  2. ^ Dendena, Bianca; Corsi, Stefano (2015). "The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment: a further step towards an integrated assessment process". Journal of Cleaner Production. 108: 965–66. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.07.110. 

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