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Designing an outcomes framework to measure impact

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How small charity Elfrida Rathbone Camden developed an outcomes framework for evaluating the effectiveness of their work.


The Government Operational Research Service (GORS) currently supports policy-making, strategy and operations in many different departments and agencies and employs around 500 analysts, ranging from sandwich students to members of the Senior Civil Service.  

GORS supports Pro Bono O.R., a scheme operated by The OR Society that places volunteer analysts in short term projects with UK based, third sector organisations. 

One charity Pro Bono O.R. has supported is Elfrida Rathbone, a charity that supports young disabled people and families in need in the London borough of Camden.

Projects typically involve data analysis, impact measurement, options appraisal, risk analysis, strategic planning/review, scheduling and process improvement.

 Third Sector organisations get support from analytics experts to help identify and clarify problems, find real solutions and improve what they do ... for free!


The issues we faced

The client runs a wide range of community projects focusing on different needs for different target groups within the community. Each project had its own individual outcomes framework, so it was difficult to monitor the effectiveness of the charity as a whole. The client therefore wanted to develop an outcome framework at an organisational level which could be applied across all of their projects in order to evaluate their overall impact in the community. 

The actions we took

We began with some background research. Firstly, we found out what data the charity already collected for individual projects, and looked for themes between projects. We also researched how similar organisations structure their outcomes frameworks. Finally, we found out what outcome measurements funders of the charity were looking for by reading application forms and interviewing one of the funders.


The next stage was to engage with the charity’s directors, trustees, volunteers, key funders and service users to agree which of the many outcomes were the most important. We achieved this through a questionnaire and a half-day workshop.


Two weeks before the workshop, all key stakeholders were invited to respond to a questionnaire. The questionnaire collected stakeholders’ opinions on who the key target groups are for the charity, what needs they have, and what outcomes the charity should be aiming at for each target group. This allowed those who were attending the workshop to reflect on the questions and begin to develop their ideas in advance, allowed those who were unable to attend the workshop to have an input, and enabled us to tailor the workshop to cover the most important themes.


The workshop followed a very similar themes to the questionnaire, but the focus was on gaining consensus. One of the key successes was that the workshop was well attended and reflected a balanced mix of stakeholders including directors, trustees, volunteers and service users who all participated in the small group exercises enabling participants to understand the importance of outcomes from different perspectives. By the end of the workshop, participants had explored a range of ideas, and reached consensus on the most important outcomes.


The analysts then used the ideas from the workshop to write a draft measurement framework. This draft framework was then fine-tuned through discussion with the director and staff to ensure it met all their needs and that it was feasible to collect the data for the proposed indicators.


Throughout the process, the development of the framework was peer reviewed by an independent O.R. analyst.

Positive outcomes

A key success of the project was such a wide range of stakeholders actively engaging in the workshop and reaching consensus. This was the first time that all these different groups had met together to agree on what is most important in the charity’s work. Work in small groups allowed plenty of time for discussion and promoted both a better understanding perspectives of other stakeholder groups and a joint sense of ownership of the outcomes framework.


The client now has a high-level framework at organisational level that can be applied to all their projects in order to demonstrate the organisation’s impact on the community and provide evidence for funders.


The Charity director commented: “You work amazingly well with us'

Negative outcomes

One of the challenges we faced was keeping up pace on the project. Engaging such a wide group of users takes time to organise, and as both the charity and the analysts had other work priorities, it was not always easy to make time to meet regularly, so the project took longer than expected from start to finish.

Lessons learnt

Although it took time and planning to arrange a workshop gathering a wide range of stakeholders together to discuss the outcomes framework, this was a vital step in the process and a key strength of the final product. Asking a questionnaire before the workshop was a useful way to collect information from those who were unable to attend the workshop and allowed the facilitators to tailor the workshop according to the themes raised.


Page last edited Apr 07, 2017

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