Measuring Outcomes

How do you measure outcomes? What is an outcome? When looking at performance Outcomes Based Accountability (OBA) is an excellent model to use. The OBA approach focuses on outcomes that are desired and monitoring and evidencing progress towards those desired outcomes. Key features of OBA include:

  • population accountability, which is about improving outcomes for a particular population within a defined geographical area
  • performance accountability, which is about the performance of a service and improving outcomes for a defined group of service users.

Using the OBA approach entails the use of a "Turning the Curve" workshop. This involves identifying the desired outcome, projecting what would happen over time if nothing changed, and then planning changes which will lead to improved outcomes or ‘turned curves’ that move away from the initial projection.

A second key feature of OBA is the use of performance management categories which distinguish between ‘How much did we do?’, ‘How well did we do it?’ and, the most important category, ‘Is anyone better off?’. Examples of these types of measures are shown below:

  • How much did we do? i.e. how many people we provided debt advice to
  • How well did we do it? i.e. customer satisfaction from people we provided debt advice to
  • Is anyone any better offer? i.e. Reducation in levels of personal debt
Outcomes ven diagram

Outputs vs. Outcomes

Outputs: are the services you offer and facilities you provide; the stuff you do. The "what do we do and who do we reach?" question. For example if people have a problem with reading your organisation might offer reading classes.

‘But YorOK wants to know about your outcomes.

Outcomes: are the changes, benefits, learning or other effects that happen as a result of your work or of your outputs; the changes which happen because of the stuff you do. The "What difference does what we do make?" question. For example: the people who have attended your reading classes can now read better. This is the outcome. (And as a result there might be all sorts of bonus outcomes, like employment opportunities or better able to support their children with reading.)’