Collecting Data… So Much More Than Numbers

Every organisation aspires to delivering quality services. CCWT presenter and impact specialist Beth Stockton outlines the case for measuring outcomes:

For many years a ‘do we or don’t we’ debate has existed around measuring outcomes, with human service organisations rightfully concerned about the time and resources required to do it well. While absolutely committed to demonstrating that the people we work with are better off, doing this work well is initially resource and time intensive. However once embedded into practice, measuring our outcomes can save time and money, improve the focus and quality of the service we provide, contribute to enhanced relationships with funders, and attract additional funding.

Why do we measure outcomes?
Most importantly, we measure outcomes because we want to be certain that things are getting better for the people we serve. More broadly, measuring outcomes also enables us to:

  1. Enhance clarity and consensus around the purpose of our organisation and programs.
  2. Identify and track effective practices and those that need improvement.
  3. Demonstrate to existing and potential funders and the communities we serve our contribution to big picture community change.
  4. Drive a positive organisational culture of data informed, quality improvement decision-making.
  5. Empower outside the box thinking, including low cost, no cost strategy development.
  6. Think outwardly, with a focus on the greater good of the people and communities we serve; while
  7. Increasing resources, funding potential and improving community outcomes.

Effective outcomes measurement practices
In the past 10 years that I have spent working with organisations as they navigate outcomes measurement across their services, I have learned a standard recipe for successful implementation as well as additional ingredients that can be added to further enhance organisational culture.

Some of the key ingredients for successful outcomes implementation include:

  1. Buy in from the top/down, if implementing across an organisation. Buy in from management if implementing across a single program.
  2. Informational training around the key concepts of the framework being adopted is not enough. Training should incorporate a workshop which enables organisations to get started, brainstorm and identify population level outcomes and program level performance measures.
  3. Immediate follow-up to ensure an evaluation plan is adopted and evaluation tools are developed.
  4. Start small! While challenging for data laden organisations, decide on no more than 3-5 performance measures per program. If this is impossible, select the 3-5 most meaningful measures to be used for ongoing quality improvement purposes.
  5. Begin collecting data as soon as possible!
  6. Regularly reflect on the most meaningful data (looking at the story behind what’s working well and the challenges), the partners who can help, what works to do better and the action we will take. The timeframe for reflection will depend on the nature of the program.

When done well, the practice of measuring outcomes offers more promise than a bit of data and funding renewal. When used as an ongoing quality improvement process across the organisation and communities, it promotes an organisational and community culture that further places the voice of the service users at the forefront of every initiative or activity.

It demonstrates to our service users that:

  1. What they say matters.
  2. We welcome and value their suggestions and expertise.
  3. We will use the information they give us to improve the work we are doing.

Further, it emphasises the strengths-based approach we aspire to in the way we deliver services.

Results Based Accountability™
I am an avid user of the Results Based Accountability™ Framework. Some of the many attributes of this framework I value most include:

  • Its simple, common sense and adaptable nature.
  • Its focus on collecting minimal AND meaningful data.
  • Population Accountability as a framework to facilitate work across complex community initiatives.
  • The ‘Turn the Curve’ process as an ongoing quality improvement process that powerfully emphasises a strengths-based, people centric organisational culture.

Get Started…
Attending CCWT’s upcoming workshop, From Talk to Action, Measuring Outcomes for Success in Sydney on August 4 is a positive first step to implementing Results Based Accountability™ across your organisation.

However, whichever framework you decide to use, go for it and just get started! Allow yourselves the liberty to learn, adapt and improve as you go along. The tips listed above are relevant, whichever framework you choose.

Beth Stockton is an impact specialist, supporting small, medium and large organisations to embed a culture of accountability across their organisation. Using the Results Based Accountability™ framework, she works with her clients to clearly translate their organisational strategy into measureable outcomes, identify partners, measure program outcomes, and use data to embed a quality improvement process and culture across the organisation. Beth is inspired by the impact outcomes measurement can have on the culture of an organisation and doesn’t simply train in a framework. She ensures that her clients have the tools and resources they need to begin implementation, and provides follow-up support. She understands that organisations are busy doing the work and it can be difficult to stay on track. She is happy to be the friendly monkey on their shoulder supporting their progress.

If you are looking for in-house outcomes measurement implementation support, please feel free to contact Beth on 0412 801 804 or beth@bethstockton.com.

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