Making Measures Work for You: Outcomes and Evaluation

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Craig McGarvey

This piece is an excellent primer on how to think about outcomes and the hurdles that may arise in measuring them. It addresses and deals with challenges such as measuring intangibles. Published by GrantCraft (a division of the Ford Foundation), the eleven-page guide is written for grantmakers to describe outcomes-based evaluation. It defines key terms and makes a case for why outcome measurement is important. The guide has four sections: 1) A concise definition of outcomes, and a contrast of outcomes versus outputs, is followed by three clear, concrete examples of outcomes that can be measured. 2) A mini-case study on one organization’s experience with outcomes measurement includes the challenges they faced. 3) Frequently asked questions regarding outcomes measurement address: why and when is outcome measurement appropriate? Can all efforts be measured in this way? What is the role of technology in outcomes measurement? What is social return on investment (SROI)? 4) Seven critiques address the controversy surrounding outcomes measurement; issues include which outcomes to measure, questions of scale, indicators versus outcomes, corrupting data via the evaluation process, long-term change versus early indicators of success, complexity of the environment, and validity of the measures chosen. Useful sidebars provide resources, tips on measuring intangibles, and a summative list of “Dos and Don’ts.”

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