When defining your coutcomes, keep these considerations in mind (based on the United Way (1996) resource).
- There is no right number of outcomes. You may have a few or many outcomes.
- There may be more than one “outcome chain.” This means that some outputs–either the activity or the targeted audience– may link to multiple “chains” or series of outcomes. In a nutrition education program, for example, one chain may relate to the elderly and one chain to pregnant mothers. In a community initiative that involves the development and maintenance of a coalition to stimulate community change, one outcome chain may relate to coalition performance and other outcome chains relate to each of the coalition’s interventions. Often, several outcome chains merge to focus on the achievement of one long-term, final outcome.
- The more immediate the outcome, the more influence, in general, the program has over its achievement. In the parenting education program, the short-term outcomes–increases in knowledge of child development and new ways to discipline–are largely a result of the staff’s teaching skills and the quality of the curriculum.
- The longer-term the outcome, the less direct influence the program has over its achievement. In the parenting education program, the medium-term outcome–parents use improved parenting skills–is more dependent upon the parent. The final outcome–reduced rates of child abuse and neglect among participants–is affected by a variety of factors outside the program’s influence.
- Because other forces affect an outcome doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be included.
- Outcomes can cycle back into the program and set in motion another whole chain of outcomes.
- An outcome chain often depicts the main anticipated series of connections. Outcomes, as depicted in the chain, may not in themselves lead to the next outcome. Rather, it is likely that, for the expected achievements to occur, additional inputs and outputs may be needed at each or various places on the outcome chain. We will learn more about outcomes and the chain of events in Section 3.
- Outcomes are not always positive; nor can they be always anticipated. Consider carefully what possible negative consequences your program may have. Think about what unintended or unexpected outcomes may occur for participants, the community, or the environment.