Communities 1st offers information and tools on successfully evaluating your projects and ways to effectively capture data to measure outputs, outcomes and impact.
What are outcomes, outputs, aims and objectives and how do they fit together?
Are the changes that you are trying to achieve
Are the methods or the activities by which you plan to achieve your aims?
Are the changes, benefits, learning or other effects that happen as a result of your work. They can be wanted or unwanted, expected or unexpected. They are often hard to count or prove and normally rely on an understanding of the initial situation or problem for comparison. For example, outcomes of users of a refugee centre might include improved English language skills.
Are the tangible products, services or facilities created by your work and these are usually easily quantifiable? They do not rely on knowledge of a starting point and instead focus on what happens once the work has finished. An example of an output would be that 500 people attended a refugee camp in defined period of time.
Is far harder to measure and is often a very long term change that affect far more than the direct beneficiaries of a project. The impact that your project contributes can often be a small piece of a wider change that many projects or initiatives are working towards. Impact can be measured by setting baselines at the start of your project and then measuring again once it has completed and again after a period of lapsed time. Case studies can be a very good way of tracking impact and an example could be that someone attending a refugee camp got additional literacy skills that enabled them to gain employment so they no longer required state benefits and recommended friends and family to enhance their own literacy skills.
These concepts should fit together and influence what you do and how you do it. Your overall project aim may break down into a number of more specific aims and the achievement of these will result in your outcomes being met. You then create the objectives that you need to deliver in order to achieve these outcomes and rationalise the number of users that need to engage and these will then become your anticipated output levels. Having clear outcomes and outputs will focus your project on what you want to achieve and increase your chances of success. You will also be able to ensure that you capture the required data throughout the project and not wait until the end.
Tips for setting baselines to measure outcomes
When measuring outcomes, you are trying to track the change that your project has created for participants. To do this accurately you need to understand the baseline levels that your participants started at and then chart the difference to where they end once the project has concluded.
The simplest method to manage this accurately is through the use pre-project and post project evaluations using a derivative of the Rikter scale to measure difference.
This works by creating a set of questions that relate to the change that you are trying to achieve for example a project to create better community cohesion may ask how isolate people feel, how much they feel they contribute to their neighbourhood and how safe the community feels. these are subjective questions based on a person’s individual perception.
You ask all participants to rate these questions on a scale of usually 1 to 10 before your project begins and then you ask them to complete the same questions at the end of the project. If it continues for a significant period of time it can be beneficial to also repeat the questions part way through.
Following the project conclusion, you will see a positive or negative change in how people rate their situations on their evaluation forms which shows their progression and these can then be rationalised as percentages or entered into graphic like an Outcomes Star.
For more information, please contact us to talk about our training sessions.