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Mapping personal outcomes to project-level outcomes

Shona Wells, ESS Training Officer talks about how she helps third sector organisations see a way to use personal outcomes to show the difference their service makes.

At ESS we often hear organisations say that they’re not sure how to measure their project’s outcomes, because outcomes can look so different for each individual who uses their services. Of course, what one person gains from engaging with you won’t necessarily be exactly the same as what another person gains. However, if you take a step back, it is possible to see some common themes that can translate into a few (we recommend 3-5) project-level outcomes.

Let’s say you’re the staff team at Auldies but Giddies, which provides group activities for socially isolated older people in the local community. You have lots of stories about how your services have made a difference to the lives of the older people you’ve worked with: the IT group helped Magda learn how to use email, which means that she’s now better able to keep in touch with her friends and family; Jim now organises a regular Sunday lunch club with the new pals he’s made at the chess group; and Doreen simply enjoys being around more people than she was before she joined the knitting group. Outcomes have clearly been achieved for these 3 older people, but can you report this at the level of project outcomes? Actually, yes! Magda, Jim and Doreen’s personal outcomes all have something in common that could be described by a project outcome such as: Older people feel less socially isolated. Although this looks different for Magda, Jim and Doreen, it’s fair to say that each of their personal outcomes can ‘map on’ to this project outcome. So, in terms of evaluation, Auldies but Giddies can say that these three people have reduced social isolation.  

We recently helped Achievement Bute to think about how they could come up with project outcomes. When they were referred to us from the Corra Foundation, they told us that each child they support has their own specific outcomes tailored to their needs but that they were less sure about how to come up with project-level outcomes that would help them evaluate the difference their work makes overall. They told us about one young girl who has become better at dressing herself after swimming, and about a teenage boy who is now more able to use public transport unaccompanied. We had a think about some of the reasons why they deliver their supportive activities to young people – what outcomes they hope to achieve by delivering their services – and one example of a project outcome we came up with was: Young people will have greater independence. For the young girl, being better able to dress herself showed an increase to her independence; for the teenage boy, greater independence was demonstrated by his ability to travel by himself.

If you’re having difficulty coming up with clear outcomes for your project, you might find it useful to check out our support guide on setting outcomes, or to attend our Getting Started: Outcomes and Indicators workshop.