Tuesday, June 27, 2023

I know I should not be surprised, but we all have different pictures of the world. That said, sometimes it is helpful if we can begin to build a common picture, and in this case a common definition. As someone who completes evaluations, builds strategic plans, and teaches evaluation practices to Masters students, definitions are important to me. For years, I’ve loved and used logic models as a tool for developing evaluations and strategic plans. However, the differences between outputs and outcomes (short-term, intermediate, and long-term) seems to be confusing. Everybody has a different picture. 


John Carver in his governance model defines Ends/Results as “What change, for what group of people, and at what cost?” That definition has served me well when working with Boards of Directors and building their governance policies and strategic plans. However, the phrase, “What change; for what group of people?” is an easy formula for the definition of an outcome.


What change; for what group of people? That’s it. Period. The simplest definition of an outcome. 


I find students and professional staff of organizations get caught up in the trap of thinking it needs to be something that we can control. That’s the point though, a good outcome is always beyond our control because it is about the change we want to see. It is not what we do to achieve the outcome, those are the things we can begin to control and/or influence. 


In our work with the Kaleidoscope Project, we have been working with stakeholders to define the impact we want to have and have developed the following outcome statement: The outcomes for all children are improved by addressing the underlying racial inequities that perpetuate harm, and changing spaces to promote the socio-emotional well-being of children. Yeah a little more complex, but at the heart of it is “All children improve their socio-emotional well-being.” Once we have the basics we can weave in the elements to tell a more complex approach to achieving the outcome, but we start simple and layer on the complexity.


Once we have the long-term outcome, we can begin to add short-term and intermediate outcomes to achieve the long-term change desired.