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Using Outcomes

Using Outcomes

Why use outcomes?

An outcomes approach encourages priorities to be specified, action to be focused on achieving desired results, and progress to be monitored and evaluated at regular intervals. A focus on key outcomes when tackling poverty can be even more beneficial in an economic climate where there is increasing pressure to evidence that public investment is securing a return.

An outcomes-based approach encourages us all to focus on the difference that we make on the lives of children experiencing poverty and not just the inputs or processes over which we have control. Success is about impact that is achieved and it is right that we should be judged by the improvements that we have made to the things that matter to our children and families facing inequality and deprivation.

First we need to be clear what an outcomes approach mean for public services involved with child poverty:

  • Outcomes are the result of what service providers do or what communities achieve for themselves.
  • Outcomes are improvements in the quality of life and opportunities for customers, citizens and communities or improvements in the supporting social, economic & environmental conditions.
  • Outcomes link to national goals while focusing on local priorities

Outcomes in practice

An outcome approach in practice

An outcomes approach should be…

  • Results focused  - It is concerned with the impact achieved or 'difference made' with less focus on 'process issues'
  • Evidence-based  - It identifies and addresses key priorities and interventions by drawing upon research, evaluation, data trends, etc
  • Client centred  - It focuses on the needs of the child rather than what might best suit service delivery organisations
  • Joined-up  - It encourages approaches that deal with the 'whole system', rather than individual elements in isolation.This typically involves streamlining service delivery around the needs of the child and improving the co-ordination and integration of public services in order to achieve shared goals.
  • Early intervention / prevention  - It encourages a shift to early intervention and preventative measures in order to avoid deeper and more complex problems developing in the future. This includes a longer-term focus, based upon effectively tackling root causes rather than simply dealing with symptoms.

Focusing upon shared priority outcomes raises awareness of the importance of focusing on customer needs, more integrated approaches and potential new models of governance which emphasise shared accountability.

This can be characterised by a move from…

Self sufficiency ► Interdependency

Fragmented approaches ► Integrated approaches

Service-focused ► Outcome-focused

Discrete accountability ► Mutual accountability

Agency-focused ► Child-focused


Prioritising outcomes

Partners need to work together in their local area to determine their child poverty priorities and how they are going to tackle them. Making decisions about priorities is a key aspect of effective leadership and governance. In the current economic climate, prioritisation is becoming of increasing importance. In essence, prioritisation is about making choices. What should your partnership or organisation really focus your resources on? What should your partnership or organisation do less of? Or even what should your partnership or organisation stop doing altogether?

Priorities should be:-

  • Understood and agreed by stakeholders
  • Reflected in key strategy documents
  • Reflected in operational plans
  • Reflected in performance management systems
  • Reflected in resource allocation (including Budgets, Staffing, Equipment)

What questions do we need to ask before we prioritise?

  • Do we actually know 'what works' (which interventions have an effective and sustainable impact, represent good value for money)?
  • Is there agreement on the evidence base / key issues / challenges / opportunities / - what's important?
  • Are there any limitations placed on individual partners due to funding, etc?

What should we ask when we are prioritising?

  • Does the priority have a strong strategic fit? (Including contribution to Single Outcome Agreement Outcomes, Objectives and Targets)
  • What is the likely impact or difference that can be made in the short, medium and long term?
  • What value for money does it represent? (ratio of inputs to outputs / outcomes?)
  • What is the sustainability of the impact? (Early intervention / prevention / downstream savings?)
  • Does it add value? (collaborative gain / complement other activities?)
  • Does it contain any innovative approaches?

Key Steps

Key steps for agreeing and implementing outcomes

Key steps for agreeing priorities with your partners…

  • Agree a clear process for decision-making on priorities, based upon the appropriate governance arrangements for the organisation or partnership. Leaders should recognise that there is a need for further prioritisation and clear benefits to be gained from the process.
  • Draw upon the available evidence base to better understand the partnership or organisations's needs and limitations. Use agreed criteria and weighting to assist in ranking priorities and appraising potential options.
  • Agree a relatively small number of key outcomes as the partnership or organisation's priorities along with clear targets and milestones. The partnership or organisation should be equally clear about what is no longer deemed to be a priority.
  • Engage the views of a wide range of stakeholders and understand individual partners' priorities, flexibilities and restrictions.

Key steps for implementing priority outcomes…

  • Effectively communicate agreed priority outcomes to stakeholders.
  • Ensure the agreed priority outcomes are reflected in the strategic and operational plans as well as in the resource allocation of partners.
  • Utilise partnership structures to consider the most effective mix of interventions and delivery mechanisms for achieving the desired outcomes.
  • Consider how best to achieve a shift of activities towards a greater focus on prevention and early intervention.
  • Develop detailed action plans, which set out the agreed interventions that are designed to deliver on the agreed priority outcomes.
  • Track and assess progress against the agreed targets and milestones for priorities and scale back or cease non-priority activities.
  • Keep priorities under review and re-assess them at regular periods and also following significant developments.