What is outcomes measurement?

December 18, 2014

by Dianne Oliver, CNM outcomes measurement expert
You have spent countless hours developing your program. How much time are you investing in measuring your impact? Are you giving the right information to your board, stakeholders and donors? 
CNM outcomes measurement expert Dianne Oliver explains, below, her process and ways she can help organizations with different measurement needs:
In a nutshell, everything I do is focused on measurable outcomes leading to client or system change.
My work can focus on any of the following levels of an organization:
1. One specific program- Provide technical support and troubleshooting with the development or refinement of a logic model or program overview.
The goal is to ensure that outcomes and metrics are clearly articulated and reflect the overall goal of the program.
Typically the agency’s goal in seeking this level of consultation is to comply with funder requirements but I stress that the outcomes should also (and more importantly) reflect what the agency is trying to achieve.  
2.  Outcome focused planning for all agency programs - Facilitate the development of outcome-focused plans for existing agency programs by taking a more holistic approach.
This might include the creation of logic models, outcome measurement frameworks and supporting narrative to articulate program design, desired outcomes, performance metrics and measurement plans.
A consultation of this depth would also include a discussion of program alignment with agency mission and might lead into a discussion about continuation, termination or modification of programs. 
3.   New program development: Provide support to the design of new programs to ensure strategy alignment with desired outcomes and agency mission.
The work would include the establishment of performance metrics and a measurement plan. It  would promote the notion of “planning with the end in mind” – start with the change you intend to effect and then develop strategies with the greatest likelihood of success. 
4. Performance culture/leadership development: One of the primary barriers to measuring impact is the lack of “real” support from the agency leadership (executive staff and board of directors). I can offer training and/or coaching for leadership to help them understand what it takes to put an outcome measurement system in place and how it needs to be used in order to have value for the agency.  It requires a commitment by the agency leadership and allocation of resources.  
5.  Strategic planning facilitation: My goal in strategic planning is to align all operating systems in an agency with program performance and mission achievement.  I would start with my 4 questions and focus the process on how the agency can better serve its intended beneficiaries and have the greatest impact possible. My mantra is that “all efforts lead to mission or they don’t belong.”
6.  A coalition or community-wide initiative involving multiple stakeholders: Nonprofit providers, policy makers, public sector services, education, etc.
Here my focus would be on developing an overall framework for the initiative, outlining which pieces each group brings to bear on the shared problem with outcomes and metrics and timeframes for each.
Typically this type of project involves a combination of client/people outcomes and system outcomes which lead to longer-term systemic change.
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