[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Last month in Part 1 of our series Outcomes “Smoutcomes” : The practicality of service outcomes assessment in your organization  we discussed how Organizations can begin thinking about Outcomes Assessments for their work. In part two of this series, we continue to explore the role of outcomes assessment for your Organization as well as provide actionable recommendations to help you get started.

Getting down to it

Do the people and families that your community organization engages learn a specific skill? Do they gain new habits or change behavioral patterns? People matter to organizations, and that is why Program Outcomes (POs) fundamentally align with your mission. The assessment of POs is central to having an organizational culture of data-driven decision-making for the sake of effective and sustainable impact in the lives of those served.

POs are the results experienced by consumers upon the delivery of a service or program. 

Every program has one or more intended outcomes and there are ways to illustrate how those outcomes are being met (sometimes with quantitative and other times with qualitative data). For small organizations, a practical way to carry-out PO assessment is to list the POs along a timeline and each year assess 1-2 of the POs. Then, across 3-5 years, all POs have undergone examination. Year-to-year, PO assessment informs the organization on needed improvements, but in a manner where the workload is practical.

Key Message: The punch that PO assessment provides

Organizations can gain insight and actionable findings for improving programs. Hence, PO assessment supports organizations in the increasing of effectiveness and developing proof to show that consumers gain skills, actions, and/or knowledge in a sustainable way due to the existence of your organization.

Why POs are scary (for some)

Many tense-up when considering what goes into maintaining PO assessment. Those in particular who work with high-risk and transient populations, might not see the practicality of carrying-out PO assessment. Rightly so. The collection of PO data is tricky with organizations serving high-risk and transient populations. In a later article, we will address this topic specifically – Dynamic Definitions of Data.

Like SO assessment practices (discussed in Part 1), organizations and individual professionals gain tremendously when PO assessment responsibilities are dispersed throughout the organization rather than relegated to a single professional. Below, consider three initial steps to begin transforming your organization’s culture into one that treasures data-driven decisions and a greater focus on community impact.

Four recommendations for engaging with the Key Message

  1. Draft a multi-year assessment plan that spans three to five years. Only one or two POs would be explored each year. Staff members benefit from participation in assessment activities; include their names in the timeline where they can contribute. Contact Dr. Young-Alfaro for diverse models for creating multi-year assessment plans.
  2. Consider the lists of possible outcomes for various types of programming shared by the Urban Institute – some of the lists might prove useful for your organization’s brainstorming on relevant POs.
  3. Share assessment findings with staff and clients (as appropriate) and ask for their feedback on interpretations of the findings. Consider doing this through focus groups. The Community Tool Box lists additional audiences with whom you might want to share your findings.
  4. Read the Anchoring Success blog in two weeks for (re)considerations of data, titled Dynamic Definitions of Data.



Assessment Dynamics Program Outcomes
Definition POs are the results experienced by clients upon delivery of a service or program.
Examples Do clients learn a specific skill? Do clients gain new habits or change behavioral patterns?
The “Punch” for Organizations Organizations benefit most when the clients benefit. Are clients engaged with direct and sustainable skills, actions and/or knowledge? These skills, actions and/or knowledge are the Program Outcomes.