How to formulate impact-oriented project objectives

Finding the correct wording is one important thing. The other is to make sure the contents of your project objectives are relevant. This means that the objectives are formulated in such a way that impact indicators can be developed from them. Indicators are points of reference enabling you to determine whether a certain result has actually been achieved. Indicators form the basis for the subsequent impact analysis.

The more specifically an objective is identified, the easier it is to derive indicators from it, and thus the more promising the impact analysis will be.

One step at a time, however.

Project objective at target group level

Focus first on the core project objective at the target group level.

The core project objective is the primary goal you’re working toward. Thus, it is the change in the living conditions of the target groups. (In the solution tree, this would be the green box, see figure to the right.)

Solution tree: what is the objective of your project?
  • Key question: If the social problem were to be solved, what would the situation look like?

The following points of orientation will help you formulate the objectives with sufficient precision:

  • Begin with identifying the target group(s) in which you want to create a change.
  • Specify the time period in which the changes are supposed to take place.
  • Utilize verbs that describe how the target groups’ living conditions will change as a consequence of the intended project results. What new opportunities will individual target-group members have afterward? How will the target group’s social situation change?
  • Avoid negations, as these trigger negative associations. "Young people have apprenticeships" is a better formulation than "young people are not unemployed." Objectives that are formulated positively provide motivation and help release participants’ energy!
  • Focus on the results of your work: Instead of "X should be achieved," formulate this as: "X exists."
Illustration Kompass

Project objectives at the societal level

Next, formulate the project objectives at the societal level. These always take a more abstract form than those at the target-group level.

They often refer to the whole society or to a part of it, such as the population within a particular region.

You can make sure they’re as useful as possible by transforming the problem identified into a positive statement. Project objectives at the impact level should be formulated without a specific date in mind, because they depend on many factors, and are in any case of a long-term nature.

  • Timing | No specific date

    Because they depend on several factors and are long-term in nature, project objectives at the impact level should be formulated without a specific date in mind.

If the identified social problem was eliminated, what would the situation look like?


We want to refer to the video we have introduced to you in the penultimate section:


Checklist for the formulation of project objectives

The SMART criteria are helpful in formulating good project objectives:

  • Specific: Project objectives need to be formulated clearly. Try to be as precise and transparent as possible when defining objectives, thereby enabling third parties to understand them, too.
  • Measurable: Objectives must be subject to quantifiable description.
  • Accepted: Project objectives need to be accepted by stakeholders. It is important to establish a common understanding of project objectives and that is accepted by all parties involved.
  • Realistic: It must be possible to actually attain the formulated project objectives. You do not have to be one hundred percent sure that objectives will be met, but they should be doable.
  • Time-bound: When formulating project objectives, it can be challenging to determine a fixed point in time for achieving the objective. Nonetheless, you should be able to provide an estimated schedule for achieving project objectives. Objectives can be reached during the project’s operation or later, the main thing is to have a schedule to keep the project on track.
  • Checklist: Formulate impact-oriented project objectives