The Evaluation Pathway        

Evaluation Pathway Stage 1

Setting outcomes & indicators

Our training, resources and support will help you to ensure that:

  1. Everyone is on board with your evaluation process, and
  2. You have clear statements about the outcomes of your project or organisation.


Getting started: outcomes and indicators is the first workshop in our Let’s Evaluate! programme and is the best place to start learning about how to set outcomes and choose indicators.

Resources for setting outcomes and indicators

What is an outcome?

Listen to Shona Wells, Training Officer explain what outcomes are in one minute!

What is an outcome?

So outcomes are the changes or differences that you hope to make through the work that you do and often we’re quite good at describing the activities that we deliver or the services that we deliver but find it a bit more challenging to explain the differences that we hope to make by delivering those activities. So that’s what outcomes are all about – explaining the difference or change that you hope to make through you work.

It can be helpful sometimes to ask yourself the question, ‘What is the problem we are trying to solve?’ and then based on that problem, you can start to think about the outcomes you hope to work towards, so what solutions might you be hoping to work towards to address that problem. And we recommend having outcomes so that you can measure the difference that you are making, not only so that you can prove the value of your work maybe to funders or to an external audience but also so you can improve your services as well.

How to write an outcome

Shona Wells, Training Officer talks you through writing an outcome in one minute!

How to write an outcome

Because outcomes are about change they should always contain a change word and by that we mean a word like increase, decrease, reduce, improve. They should describe the ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ of change. So for example, if we had an outcome that was ‘older people will feel less isolated’, the ‘who’ is older people, ‘what we are hoping to change’ is how isolated they feel, and how do we hope that will change is the ‘less’. So the ‘how’ refers to the direction of change rather than how will we change it. The direction of change is the increase, decrease, more, less. So if an outcome is about change and describes the ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ of change then it’s a well written outcome.

What is an indicator?

Grace Robertson, Training Officer at Evaluation Support Scotland explains indicators in less than one minute!

What is an indicator?

Once you know what changes or difference s you’re trying to make. That’s your outcomes. The next step is for each of your outcomes to set some indicators. Indicators are the things that you measure to tell you whether or not you’re achieving your outcomes. Indicators will tell you what questions you need answers to and they’ll tell you where you can get evidence about those changes happening. Indicators are especially useful when you are trying to measure softer outcomes – so things that are more subjective. An example might be an increase in confidence. Indicators will tell you what you need to measure to see if you’re achieving that outcome of something like increased confidence.

Working out what to measure: setting indicators

Working out what to measure: setting indicators

When you’re setting indicators for your outcomes there are some important
things to bear in mind so that they are useful. Because you normally need to
measure your indicators on more than one occasion it’s not helpful to have
change words within them, unlike with your outcomes. So instead you are going to have a neutral statement. Indicators often have words like level of, or ability to, or number of. So those are neutral things that you can measure on more than one occasion. An example for indicators of a soft outcome, like increased confidence, could be things like ability to make eye contact, willingness to get involved with activities, or ability to make friends. So setting clear indicators for your outcomes will tell you what things you need to measure.

ESS Support Guides

Evaluation Guides

Case Studies

Other resources

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Visit the Resources & Publications page. Or get in touch to ask for more help.