Measuring outcomes

Measuring the things that change because of what you do can help you to determine the difference your activities are making. Measuring these outcomes is an important part of determining the success of your activities and often required as way to justify any financial investment you make in your activities.  

To measure your outcomes, you need to have information about what is happening for people now (baseline data). You then need to collect the same information at key points during the delivery of your activity so that you can see if there has been a change. You might collect information before or after a program, quarterly, six-monthly or annually.

Creating a measurement framework like this one is a useful way to keep track of the way you will capture data and  measure your outcomes:

Here are some (non-ILC) examples to help you understand how information collection works:

Activity: Run a doctors surgery

What is the outcome? People get well and are healthy

What is the indicator? People have fewer days off work sick

How will you collect information? Survey

What question will you ask? How many sick days have you had in the past six months?

When will you collect information? Every six months

Activity: Run an after school soccer program

What is the outcome? Children make friends in a healthy environment

What is the indicator? Children spend time with team mates outside of the soccer program

How will you collect information? Coach observations and interviews

What question will you ask? Do you ever see your team mates outside this soccer program?

When will you collect information? Every three months

What is the activity? Run a gym

What is the outcome? People are healthier

What is the indicator? People lose weight

How will you collect information? Information from personal trainer records

What question will you ask? How much weight has the person lost in the past three months?

When will you collect information? Every three months

What is the activity?

What is the outcome?

What is the indicator?

How will you collect information?

What question will you ask?

When will you collect information?

Here are some (non-ILC) examples to help you understand how information collection works:

Run a doctors surgery

People get well and are healthy

People have fewer days off work sick

Survey

How many sick days have you had in the past six months?

Every six months

Run an after school soccer program

Children make friends in a healthy environment

Children spend time with team mates outside of the soccer program

Coach observations and interviews

Do you ever see your team mates outside this soccer program?

Every three months

Run a gym

People are healthier

People lose weight

Information from personal trainer records

How much weight has the person lost in the past three months?

Every three months

How do you know what information to collect?

You can use indicators, which are like sign-posts, or clues that something has happened. You will need to decide on useful indicators for each of your outcomes so you can see whether change has happened at every step of the journey for a person.

Tips for choosing indicators

  • Indicators help you measure your outcomes
  • Indicators can be quantitative, indicating a number, an index, ratio or percentage – e.g. if your outcome is to increase employment, the indicator might be the percentage of people who got a job
  • Indicators can also be qualitative, indicating more subjective changes – e.g. if your outcome is to increase job satisfaction your qualitative indicator might be the extent to which someone reports being empowered or valued in their job
  • They can take the form of proxies or clues that might reasonably show that an outcome is happening (e.g. if the outcome is to increase self-confidence, the indicator might be whether a person is able to talk comfortably in a group)
  • Indicators should capture: who has changed; what has changed; and how much has changed
  • Indicators need to be measured over time to show change and it is helpful if they are comparable to other sources of information

Collecting information

What should you do when you have decided on your indicators? You then need to think about what tools you will use to collect information, the questions you will ask to find out the information, and when you will collect the information.

Most organisations are already collecting large amounts of data. It is very likely, therefore that you are already collecting at least some of the indicator information you need to start measuring your impact. As a result, it is important you firstly consider:

  • What information am I already collecting?
  • Is it sufficient for my needs or do I need to collect more?
  • What tools do I already have to collect data and can I adapt these?