The field of development and microfinance is expanding very fast. It is very important to understand the current environmental, cultural, political, and historical context in which MicroConsignment is working. Take a look at the articles below for contextual information to topics related to the field.
An OverviewText taken and modified from the United Way of America website —-
Introduction to Outcome Measurement: What are Outcomes?
If yours is like most agencies, you regularly monitor and report on how much money you receive, how many staff and volunteers you have, and what they do in your programs. You know how many individuals participate in your programs, how many hours you spend serving them, and how many brochures or classes or counseling sessions you produce. In other words, you document program inputs, activities, and outputs.
Inputs include resources dedicated to or consumed by the program. Examples are money, staff and staff time, volunteers and volunteer time, facilities, equipment, and supplies. For instance, inputs for a parent education class include the hours of staff time spent designing and delivering the program. Inputs also include constraints on the program, such as laws, regulations, and requirements for receipt of funding.
Activities are what the program does with the inputs to fulfill its mission. Activities include the strategies, techniques, and types of treatment that comprise the program’s service methodology. For instance, sheltering and feeding homeless families are program activities, as are training and counseling homeless adults to help them prepare for and find jobs.
Outputs are the direct products of program activities and usually are measured in terms of the volume of work accomplished-for example, the numbers of classes taught, counseling sessions conducted, educational materials distributed, and participants served. Outputs have little inherent value in themselves. They are important because they are intended to lead to a desired benefit for participants or target populations.
If given enough resources, managers can control output levels. In a parent education class, for example, the number of classes held and the number of parents served are outputs. With enough staff and supplies, the program could double its output of classes and participants.
HOWEVER MOST AGENCIES do not consistently track what happens to participants after they receive your services. You cannot report, for example, that 55 percent of your participants used more appropriate approaches to conflict management after your youth development program conducted sessions on that skill, or that your public awareness program was followed by a 20 percent increase in the number of low-income parents getting their children immunized. In other words, you do not have much information on your program’s outcomes.
Outcomes are benefits or changes for individuals or populations during or after participating in program activities. They are influenced by a program’s outputs. Outcomes may relate to behavior, skills, knowledge, attitudes, values, condition, or other attributes. They are what participants know, think, or can do; or how they behave; or what their condition is, that is different following the program.
For example, in a program to counsel families on financial management, outputs–what the service produces–include the number of financial planning sessions and the number of families seen. The desired outcomes–the changes sought in participants’ behavior or status–can include their developing and living within a budget, making monthly additions to a savings account, and having increased financial stability.
In another example, outputs of a neighborhood clean-up campaign can be the number of organizing meetings held and the number of weekends dedicated to the clean-up effort. Outcomes-benefits to the target population-might include reduced exposure to safety hazards and increased feelings of neighborhood pride.
Why Measure Outcomes?
In growing numbers, service providers, governments, other funders, and the public are calling for clearer evidence that the resources they expend actually produce benefits for people. Consumers of services and volunteers who provide services want to know that programs to which they devote their time really make a difference. That is, they want better accountability for the use of resources. One clear and compelling answer to the question of “Why measure outcomes?” is: To see if programs really make a difference in the lives of people.
Although improved accountability has been a major force behind the move to outcome measurement, there is an even more important reason: To help programs improve services. Outcome measurement provides a learning loop that feeds information back into programs on how well they are doing. It offers findings they can use to adapt, improve, and become more effective.
This dividend doesn’t take years to occur. It often starts appearing early in the process of setting up an outcome measurement system. just the process of focusing on outcomes-on why the program is doing what its doing and how it thinks participants will be better off-gives program managers and staff a clearer picture of the purpose of their efforts. That clarification alone frequently leads to more focused and productive service delivery.
Down the road, being able to demonstrate that their efforts are making a difference for people pays important dividends for programs. It can, for example, help programs:
• Recruit and retain talented staff.
• Enlist and motivate able volunteers.
• Attract new participants.
• Engage collaborators.
• Garner support for innovative efforts.
• Win designation as a model or demonstration site.
• Retain or increase funding.
• Gain favorable public recognition.
Results of outcome measurement show not only where services are being effective for participants, but also where outcomes are not as expected. Program managers can use outcome data to:
• Strengthen existing services.
• Target effective services for expansion.
• Identify staff and volunteer training needs.
• Develop and justify budgets.
• Prepare long-range plans.
• Focus board members’ attention on programmatic issues.
To increase its internal efficiency, a program needs to track its inputs and outputs. To assess compliance with service delivery standards, a program needs to monitor activities and outputs. But to improve its effectiveness in helping participants, to assure potential participants and funders that its programs produce results, and to show the general public that it produces benefits that merit support, an agency needs to measure its outcomes.
These and other benefits of outcome measurement are not just theoretical. Scores of human service providers across the country attest to the difference it has made for their staff, their volunteers, their decision makers, their financial situation, their reputation, and, most important, for the public they serve.
There are a multitude of books written about the countries you will be visiting. Members of the CE Solutions team have selected a couple of books for each country that provides a deeper perspective of the context in which you will be working in. Feel free to check them out for airplane or in-country reading!
- The Art of Political Murder by Francisco Goldman
- I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala by Elizabeth Burgos
- The Country Under My Skin by Gioconda Belli
- Where is Nicaragua? by Peter Davis
- Crude Chronicles: Indigenous Politics, Multinational Oil, and Neoliberalism in Ecuador by Suzanne Sawyer
- The Villagers by Jorge Icaza
- Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
- No Future without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu