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Giving Compass' Take:
• Third Sector Capital Partners explores the role of outputs in the field of impact investing and how they can be used to advance the field — they can be key indicators that show us what's working and what's not.
• With such a strong emphasis on data collecting and outcome measurements in work such as this, it's worth a reminder that we need a fuller picture to do good work.
The social services sector is transitioning from a focus on "outputs" measuring activity levels towards "outcomes" measuring life impacts. The Third Sector advises public agencies seeking to use the tools at their disposal, such as procurement, policy, and data, to better align with long-term success for their communities.
1. Process outputs provide motivation to achieve broader goals: Setting and achieving intermittent process metrics is important to creating lasting change. Program innovation is challenging work, especially when funding is contingent upon success that is determined years in the future.
2. Activity outputs tell us how efficiently outcomes are generated: Outputs measuring activity levels can shed light on organizational and programmatic health. Having a good gauge on activity levels also helps providers to identify whether they are serving their intended populations, as well as costs associated with delivering outcomes for more vulnerable communities.
3. Correlated outputs can be substitutes for measuring elusive impacts: Output metrics can serve as proxies when cost or time precludes an evaluation of long-term impacts. With one county’s Office of Education, we are exploring the expansion of a program to prepare children from low-income families for kindergarten. Choosing outcome metrics consistent with lasting student achievement that are also trackable has proven to be a challenge. To balance rigor and practicality, the agency is exploring school attendance, grades, and other family stabilization indicators as proxies for future education and economic outcomes.
Read the full article about the value of outputs and outcomes by Vanessa Lin McGraw at Third Sector Capital Partners.