Are you outcomes ready for 2018/19? It’s hard to imagine, but we are already beginning to think about budgets and plans for FY2018/19.
For those of us in the social impact space, that means we need to get real about getting our organisations ready to demonstrate outcomes, and consider the resources needed to support this.
While getting outcomes ready represents a major shift from the ‘business as usual’ approach for many organisations, it’s a reality that NFP leaders can no longer ignore.
The writing on the wall is clear: outcomes measurement will play a central role in (near) future funding arrangements for our sector.
Numerous government departments have been publishing more and more outcomes frameworks and policy documents. The NSW state government has already introduced outcomes-related payments into a number of their tender arrangements, as has the Commonwealth government, with Victoria likely to follow suit (if they haven’t already started).
But what does that mean for your organisation? And how can you demonstrate your commitment to an outcomes approach? Here are 3 practical steps to consider:
1. Budget for outcomes in 2018/19
As a starting point, dedicate a percentage of your program or service spend to outcomes monitoring and evaluation.
In the international development sphere, organisations from the World Bank, to the United Nations, to World Vision to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade all allocate 10-20% of their project budget line for monitoring and evaluation. This is an accepted best practice international standard. (In fact, it’s pretty much impossible to fund an international project without this line item.) This practice has fostered a sector with greater clarity about outcomes, and the skills and processes to monitor and report on them.
Having a dedicated budget line in your organisational budget for outcomes measurement will also require you to report and be accountable for the investment.
2. Get the right person(s) on board
Outcomes measurement is valuable, necessary and beneficial work – but it is work. You will need a human resource, either external or internal, to drive outcomes processes, build staff capacity, and support culture change.
Whether looking for a firm, a consultant or employing internal capability to do this work, we suggest you look at their:
- track record in establishing outcome frameworks that are used and fit for purpose
- experience working with the not for profit sector (and your area of work specifically)
- approach to capacity building and training – what methods do they employ?
- ability to work adaptively and technically i.e. can they work at the level of culture, values and behaviour change not just the processes and systems?
- experience in delivering an end to end process – i.e. from strategy through to reporting and everything in between
- fit with your brand, values and culture.
3. Identify outcomes with the clients
Being outcomes ready is a mindset, one that requires us to reorient our thinking and start with the intended outcomes for the beneficiary/consumer/community member. That is not what we as service providers, community organisations produce or do, but instead being clear about what actually changes for those we work in the name of. Therefore, in the words of Rich Harwood we need to ‘turn outwards’, and work directly with beneficiaries in developing outcomes.
For too long, we have been focussed on what we have produced or have delivered, thanks in part to output orientated contracts and grants. We’re all familiar with the output reports – the 4000 volunteers, 2000 books, 500 incidents of care, 1,000 workshops – but so what? Did anything change for our clients? Did they improve their experience, condition, knowledge, relationships, health, educational or employment status? This is where the real journey towards outcomes starts.
Being outcomes ready requires the commitment of resources, the right team to work with and a fundamental shift in thinking – only then can you begin the outcomes work. There are many tools, templates, software packages, consultants, training courses to help you on your journey. But to be successful, organisations will need to demonstrate their commitment to an outcomes approach in their budgets, strategic plans, and leadership. They will also need courage to truly listen to what our clients want from us, and find out if what we do really makes a meaningful difference in their lives.
About the author:
Jenny Riley is a measurement and evaluation expert with over 20 years’ experience in the social sector.
She is the principal and founder of Navigating Outcomes, providing organisations with innovative social impact measurement through best-practice evaluation methodology, business intelligence, data analytics and mobile and cloud technology.