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The Outcomes Approach to Evaluation

 

A method you may find useful is the Outcomes Approach to project evaluation. This approach involves integrating evaluation from the start, not just as an adjunct, and thinking about your project in four distinct but related areas: your project’s aims, its outcomes, its activities and its indicators. We’ll take each of these in turn.

The aims of a project are the top-level, general goals of your project. It may be, for example, to encourage the civic participation of disadvantaged youth’; or, it may be to ‘reduce youth unemployment’. For those involved in Erasmus+ Youth in Action, these aims are likely to be the same as your organisation’s aims.

The outcomes of a project are the concrete changes your project intends to achieve, related to the aim. If your project aim was ‘employability’ as above, your outcomes could be ‘improve young people’s employability’, or ‘raise awareness of what employers are looking for.’ There should be more outcomes than aims. Importantly, outcomes should be measurable: there should be a way of telling if they’ve happened (which is why it’s good to have targets about raising or increasing).

The activities are the things your project is going to do, and which should be designed to bring about the outcomes. It is these that much project planning will focus on – activities are all the varied meetings, seminars, courses and so on, that constitute your project.

The indicators are what let you know if your project is working – if your outcomes are happening. For this reason an indicator must be something you can test, observe, or measure in some way. This could be through many methods, and will likely include some combination of questionnaires, surveys, statistical measurements, direct observation, external indicators such as published figures, qualitative analysis, and expert evaluation. An indicator for our example project could be ‘more involvement in employability training by young people’, or ‘a better level of knowledge regarding effective CVs’.

It is important that all of these four elements are related. If you have an outcome that is not related to your aim, it should be removed; if you have an activities that does not contribute clearly to an outcome, it should be removed; and if you have an indicator which doesn’t clearly measure an outcome, it should not be used. The outcomes method, then, can help you to focus your project as well as evaluate its success.

In short, as below: your activities produce outcomes which are measured by indicators and contribute to your aims.

It is worth considering this approach at the very start of your project. We’ve included a planning sheet here that you may find useful.

 

 

 

 

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