The “Outcome Mapping” Methodology Approach

What is Outcome Mapping Methodology Approach?

Outcome Mapping (OM) is a methodology for planning, monitoring and evaluating sustainability projects to carry on sustainable social change. It is designed to cope with complexity and is not centered on linear models of change.

When to use it?

OM can provide a toolset that can be utilized on a stand-alone basis or in parallel with other planning, control and evaluation systems, if you want to:

  • Identify people, organizations or entities with which you can interact closely to influence behavioral change.
  • Plan and track behavioral change and methods to facilitate these improvements.
  • Track the internal activities of the project  in order to be successful.
  • Establish an assessment system to analyze a specific issue more explicitly.

Outcome mapping key points

The following three terms are at the heart of outcome mapping:

  • Behavioral change: Results are characterized as changes in the behavior, relationships, attitudes or acts of individuals, groups and institutions with which the program works directly. These results can theoretically be attributed to the actions of the program, but they are not actually explicitly connected to them.
  • Boundary partners: all people, groups and organizations with whom the program interacts specifically and with whom it anticipates opportunities for impact. Most practices will involve different results when they have multiple boundary partners.
  • Contributions: By using Outcome Mapping, the program does not assume to have an impact on development; rather it reflects on its relation to outcomes. These outcomes, in particular, increase the capacity for developmental impacts – but the relationship is not always so clear of cause and effect.

How it works: The three stages of the OM

Outcome Mapping is intended to be used at the start of the program after the primary objective of the program has been determined. There are three main stages in the planning of the outcome map.

The first stage, Intentional Design: allows the program to achieve a consensus on the improvements it wants to help bring about and to prepare the methods it will use. It helps to answer four questions:

  • What is the vision to which the programme wants to contribute?  
  • Who are the programme’s boundary partners?  
  • What are the changes that are being sought?  
  • How will the programme contribute to the change process?

The second stage, Outcome and Performance Monitoring: offers a mechanism for the ongoing monitoring of the program’s activities and the progress of the boundary partners towards the achievement of outcomes.’ Monitoring is primarily based on self-assessment.

The third stage, Evaluation Planning: allows the program to define evaluation goals and to establish an evaluation strategy.

Steps of OM

The Intentional design stage is based on seven steps which are normally developed in sequential order:

  1. The vision describes the large-scale development changes that the organisation hopes to encourage.
  2. The mission spells out how the organisation will contribute to the vision and it is that ‘bite’ of the vision on which the organisation’s programme is going to focus. 
  3. The boundary partners are those individuals, groups, or organisations with whom the programme interacts directly and with whom it anticipates opportunities for influence. 
  4. An outcome challenge statement describes the desired changes in the behaviour, relationships, activities, actions (professional practices) of the boundary partner. It is the ideal behavioural change of each type of boundary partner for it to contribute to the ultimate goals (vision) of the programme.
  5. Progress Markers are a set of statements describing a gradual progression of changed behaviour in the boundary partner leading to the ideal outcome challenge. They are a core element in OM and the strength rests in their utility as a set of desired changes which indicate progression towards the ideal outcome challenge and articulate the complexity of the change process. They represent the information which can be gathered in order to monitor partner achievements. Therefore, progress markers are central in the monitoring process. Progress markers can be seen as indicators in the sense that they are observable and measurable but differ from the conventional indicators used in LFA. Progress markers can be adjusted during the implementation process, can include unintended results, do not describe a change in state and do not contain percentages or deadlines.
  6. Strategy maps are a mix of different types of strategies used by the implementing team to contribute to and support the achievement of the desired changes at the level of the boundary partners. OM encourages the programme to identify strategies which are aimed directly at the boundary partner and those aimed at the environment in which the boundary partner operates.
  7. Organisational Practices explain how the implementing team is going to operate and organise itself to fulfil its mission. It is based on the idea that supporting change in boundary partners requires that the programme team itself is able to change and adapt as well, i.e. not only by being efficient and effective (operational capacities) but also by being relevant (adaptive capacities).

The monitoring stage involves four steps:

  1. Monitoring priorities provides a process for establishing the areas of the project to be monitored. 
  2. Outcome journals are a tool for collecting data about the progress markers over time. 
  3. Strategy journals are a tool for collecting data about the activities of a project. 
  4. Performance journals are for collecting data about organisational practices.

The evaluation stage involves one step:

  1. Evaluation plan provides a process and a tool for designing an evaluation using OM.

Pros and Cons of this Approach:

Some of Outcome Mapping’s strengths can be listed below:

  • Introduces early stage monitoring and assessment.
  • Empowers multi-stakeholder dialogue, and learning among multiple participants.
  • It can be more intuitive for field workers to understand
  • It allows programs to analyze both the results of the program and the systems by which these outcomes are produced.
  • More suited for tracking and analyzing programs with multiple inputs.
  • Useful as the speed of change is not easy to forecast.
  • It’s effective at working with projects with a clear emphasis on organizational change.

Some of its limitations are listed below:

  • It cannot effectively be used for processes involving hard outcomes measurement 
  • Outcome Mapping consumes a lot of time, effort, and persistence to do well. 
  • It is not generally an effective method for coping with big, complex programs.
  • It is not helpful to define change for individuals, organizations, or groups outside the system, such as policy goals that affect work.
  • Outcome Mapping is not mainly based on impact assessment
  • It is less capable of presenting a brief, precise summary of the mission, program, or function of the company.
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