Outcomes Based Measurement and Reporting
Under the DCSP Policy, measurement and reporting are to be based on outcomes rather than the traditional output or activity based mechanisms of measurement and reporting. The methodology of outcomes based service design and reporting carries with it a number of different terms, illustrated below.
Outcomes based measurement is a way of measuring effectiveness and results. Let’s not get too carried away – outputs are still important in outcomes based measurement. But the focus is not on outputs as the final result, but on how outputs lead to the achievement of overall outcomes.
Outputs are what we do to achieve an outcome and in this regard outputs are an important factor in calculating the costs involved in delivering a service.
Outcomes based reporting is how we evaluate achievement of outcomes and report back to our funding bodies. Reporting focuses on the outcomes achieved rather than the outputs.
So what are outcomes?
Outcomes are the result of our efforts in materialising a desired goal. In contrast, outputs are a measurement of a specific activity in achieving desired outcomes. Examples of outputs include ‘number of clients seen’; ‘number of dogs re-homed’, ‘% completion of a youth training course’, etc. They are often quantifiable. Outcomes are a measure of broader effectiveness, and they operate on a number of different levels.
It is important here to distinguish outcomes from a vision statement. Ultimately, outcomes will always relate to a vision statement, however the difference is that vision statements are usually not achievable within one lifetime. For example, ‘world peace’, or WACOSS’ vision ‘a just and equitable society’ - more than likely these cannot be achieved in one lifetime.
Long term outcomes could potentially be achieved over, say, a 10 year period.
A long-term outcome might be ‘reduce unemployment to 2%’ or ‘rehome all pets’. An intermediate outcome might be ‘reduce unemployment to 5%’, or an outcome that might be achieved over a 5-6 year period.
Finally, a short term outcome might be something that could be achieved in 1-3 years, and it might be to (on the way to our long and intermediate term outcomes) ‘reduce unemployment to 7%’. And of course, depending on the way in which you are framing your outcomes, you could have outcomes for 6-12 months, or for 20 years.
There are a number of benefits and disadvantages concerning outcomes based measurement and reporting. A major benefit is that it enables us to focus on reaching our ultimate goal. It keeps us accountable to our broader objectives of reducing disadvantage in the world. The biggest disadvantage is that organisations really have to be set up in a way that encourages outcomes based measurement, and to really get set up that way requires time, commitment and resources.
There are a number of different ways to measure outcomes, all of which have their own benefits or disadvantages. What systems you choose (if you choose one at all), depend on your organisation’s systems and processes, what you are measuring, what data you are collecting, what type of service agreements you have, and many many other factors.
It’s important to note that there are a lot of different ways to describe outcomes, outputs, inputs, etc. Whilst we aim to provide a guide here, this is by no means a definitive answer. In this world of outcomes based procurement and reporting, one of the most important things we can do is to create a common understanding with our funding bodies on what outcomes are for us; and being clear with one another what we are trying to achieve and in what timeframe we are looking to achieve it.
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