This is part of a much-needed shift in the social sector. Stakeholders at all levels, from Government departments to philanthropic funders and service users are demanding organisations take a more outcomes-focused approach. If human services organisations want to continue to secure funding, we need to be able to prove we have the capacity to achieve beneficial changes for our customers.

The Importance of Measuring Outcomes

The way we prove our value is through achieving outcomes, which are the positive effects for a person from engaging in an activity or program. Whenever a person engages in one of our services, we expect there to be an improvement in their behaviour, skills, knowledge, circumstances or status from participating in that activity.

infographic - Example Eric is a participant in a training course

By adopting an outcomes-focused approach, we are being clear on the improvement we are expecting to see. Essentially, it allows us to ask and answer the question of “so what?” when we engage people in a particular type of service and activities. For example, what is the benefit to an individual from participating in a training course and how will it contribute to a positive change in their life? An outcomes-focused approach means we can track a range the progress a participant has made in the short, medium, and long-term because of the activities undertaken.

infographic - example eric potential outcomes from training course

Importantly, implementing an outcomes-focused approach also holds us accountable. At SYC, we strive to deliver quality services and by committing to achieving outcomes, we are committing to proving to our stakeholders and clients that what we are doing is working. It is essential that we understand whether our services have actually made a difference and improved the lives of the participants.

infographic - list of reasons for outcome measurement
Delivering Impact

The immediate outcomes alone, however, are often not enough to prove an organisation’s true value in the community. We produce outcomes under the assumption that they contribute to long-term positive impacts for the individual, as well as their families and our broader society.

infographic - example eric further reaching impacts from training course

These lasting effects are often more difficult to measure than outcomes because they may not be fully attributable to a single program and clients are rarely tracked longitudinally. For our example of Eric, the full impact of completing a vocational training qualification may not be realised for over ten years.

A way to measure impact

In the absence of ongoing longitudinal analysis, our approach to understanding impact also incorporates the forecast economic impact of achieving certain outcomes. By successfully improving the lives of people in need and placing them on a pathway to independence, we are creating value or generating a social return. We can measure this value through the individual’s improved wellbeing and personal capacity as well as secondary measures such as reducing government costs compared to the cost of delivering those services.

For instance, there is a significant level of economic impact that can be achieved by supporting a long-term unemployed person on a benefit into sustainable, ongoing work. Their spending capacity increases, improving their ability to support their family, themselves and their community, while government revenue increases and costs reduce allowing for continued investment in those essential services. When this is achieved across thousands of people, the value generated by an organisation is substantial.

This value allows us to compare the impact different programs are having as well as the impact the organisation has achieved overall. We think this is important because it shows to our stakeholders that investing in SYC and the work we do will reap a level of impact that is far greater and more long-lasting than the funding provided.

To see how we apply our Outcomes and Impact measurement approach check out our ‘Snapshot of SYC’ article.