Assessment of impacts: Qualitative analysis

In this approach, you should:

  • identify the areas in which the proposed action is intended to produce benefits, as well as the areas where this may lead to direct costs or unintended negative impacts
  • assign likelihoods (e.g. low, medium or high probability) that the impact will occur (or conversely the risk that the impact will not occur). This can be done by setting out your assumptions about factors that may influence the probability that impacts will occur, but which are outside the control of those managing the intervention
  • assess and estimate the magnitude of each impact (providing reasonable ranges). This can be done by considering the influence of the intervention on the behaviour of addressees and vis-à-vis the socio-economic and environmental context in which the intervention takes place. Ask yourself whether some of the impacts could be irreversible
  • assess the importance of impacts on the basis of the two preceding elements (e.g. from low likelihood/low magnitude through to high likelihood/high impact).

When identifying impacts, you should keep the following points in mind:

  • consider both short-term and long-term impacts – it is often easier to identify short-term effects, but this does not mean that they are more important
  • do not overlook impacts that cannot readily be expressed in quantitative or monetary terms
  • remember that different factors which influence impacts also interact with one another
  • take account of how the impacts of the proposal may be affected by the implementation of other proposals, particularly if the proposal is part of a ‘package’
  • consider impacts in the context of Treaty objectives and the EU's over-arching policy goals, such as respect for Fundamental Rights, promoting sustainable development, achieving the goals of the Lisbon Strategy, and the EU energy strategy.

One way of presenting this sort of assessment of impacts is to build an impact matrix. This involves the following five tasks:

  • break the policy options down into their main actions (the rows of the matrix)
  • identify the main types or categories of impacts (the columns of the matrix), organised according to a time horizon where possible
  • indicate in each cell the likelihood of an impact (certain, probable, unlikely)
  • indicate in each cell whether the impact is expected to be positive or negative, or uncertain. Where it is positive or negative the magnitude can also be indicated
  • indicate in each cell the addressees (or affected populations), the timescale over which the impacts are expected to occur.