Outcome Harvesting is a method that enables evaluators, grant makers, and managers to identify, formulate, verify, and make sense of outcomes while acknowledging the complexities of social change projects. Unlike some evaluation methods, Outcome Harvesting does not measure progress towards predetermined outcomes, but rather collects evidence of what has been achieved, and works backward to determine whether and how the project or intervention contributed to the change. Using Outcome Harvesting, the evaluator or harvester gleans information from reports, personal interviews, and other sources to document how a given program or initiative has contributed to outcomes. These outcomes can be positive or negative, intended or unintended, but the connection between the initiative and the outcomes should be verifiable. The harvested information goes through a winnowing process during which it is validated or substantiated by comparing it to information collected from knowledgeable, independent sources.
Developed with the support of the Ford Foundation, this brief provides an introduction to Outcome Harvesting as an evaluation method, allowing evaluators, decision makers, and practitioners to determine if the method is appropriate for their evaluation needs. This brief is not a comprehensive guide to or explanation of the method, but an introduction. Included in the brief are examples to illustrate how Outcome Harvesting is applied to real situations. Animating Democracy observes that art practitioners who have been within an organization or have had longstanding programs could utilize Outcome Harvesting in retrospective evaluation work.
For a related case study see: Making the Case for Skid Row Culture: Findings from a Collaborative Inquiry by the Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD) and the Urban Institute, Maria Rosario Jackson, John Malpede. Although this case study does not specifically site Outcome Harvesting as the evaluative method used, Animating Democracy observes that the orientation of the research reflects the approach.