South Africa faces many development challenges, of which poverty and inequality are the most significant. Social development is one of the mechanisms used in an attempt to
address some of the developmental challenges. The South African government adopted a
developmental approach to social welfare. However, a history of institutional human
rights abuse in the form of Apartheid has left a legacy. An area in which social
development is failing to gain traction is in the corporate sphere. Industrial projects often
require a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) in compliance with environmental laws, but this
is demonstrated to be a grudge expenditure that is only supported to obtain
authorisation for the development rather than a genuine commitment to social change.
However, SIA and social development have common traits. The goal of this study was to
explore whether SIA can be used as a tool for social development in the South African
The theoretical framework of the study is embedded in social development which
underpins the context of poverty, human rights, developmental social work and a social
protection floor. An exploratory sequential mixed methods design was used for the study.
The first qualitative phase of the study used an instrumental case study design and the
second quantitative phase used a structured non participant observation design. For the
qualitative study data was collected through 24 semi structured interviews with SIA
practitioners who was selected through purposive and snowball sampling methods, and
three World Cafés. For the quantitative study, data was collected through a cross-sectional survey analysing fifteen SIA reports that were produced between 2008 and 2014
to determine the extent that it reflects social development goals.