Outcome evaluation is another important feature of any comprehensive evaluation plan. It assesses the short- and long-term results of a project and seeks to measure the changes brought about by the project. Outcome evaluation questions ask: What are the critical outcomes you are trying to achieve? What impact is the project having on its clients, its staff, its umbrella organization, and its community? What unexpected impact has the project had?
Outcome evaluation can serve an important role during each phase of a project’s development. Early on, you might focus outcome evaluation on:
- determining what outcomes you expect or hope for from the project; and
- thinking through how individual participant/client outcomes connect to specific program or system-level outcomes.
In later phases of project maturity, an effective outcome evaluation process is critical to:
- demonstrating the effectiveness of your project and making a case for its continued funding or for expansion/replication;
- helping to answer questions about what works, for whom, and in what circumstances, and how to improve program delivery and services; and
- determining which implementation activities and contextual factors are supporting or hindering outcomes and overall program effectiveness.
A Program Logic Model is an effective method for charting progress toward interim and long-term outcomes. A program logic model is a picture of how your program works—the theory and assumptions underlying the program. A program logic model links outcomes (both short- and long-term) with program activities/processes and the theoretical assumptions/principles of the program. This model provides a roadmap of your program, highlighting how it is expected to work, what activities need to come before others, and how desired outcomes are achieved.