Outcome Harvesting: Principles, Steps, and Evaluation Applications

Posted on February 14, 2019
By Duncan Field

outcome mappingAll throughout 2018 and into 2019, the Tamarack Institute has seen a large spike in interest in our Evaluation resources. This trend towards evaluating community change efforts is an encouraging one – it represents a move beyond programmatic interventions towards systems change, and how to evaluate the impact of our change efforts.

Mark Cabaj, a Tamarack Associate, has largely led our exploration of Evaluation and in his most recent offering, profiles the work of expert evaluator Ricardo Wilson-Grau and his book Outcome Harvesting: Principles, Steps, and Evaluation ApplicationsThe book review introduces us to what Mark describes as “one of the most important evaluation methodologies to emerge in the field of social change and innovation in the last 20 years” – Outcome Harvesting.

The most meaningful distinction Wilson-Grau makes in his methodology is between the concept of impacts and outcomes. Impacts are end-states that changemakers work towards, such as reduced rates of poverty. Outcomes are the specific and incremental changes in behaviour that are required to reach that end-state. Focusing on outcomes allows the evaluator or social innovator to approach complex systems by analyzing discrete outcomes that are produced along the way, with each outcome analyzed in three ways:

  • What was the outcome? (e.g. action, behaviour change)
  • Why is the outcome significant?
  • What was the contribution to the outcome?

Beyond introducing a new and fascinating evaluation lens, Outcome Harvesting: Principles, Steps, and Evaluation Applications provides a solid structure for implementing the methodology itself, along with practical tools, tips, and examples. Mark’s review is an approachable introduction to this new way of thinking, and Wilson-Grau’s book itself promises to be a rich source for inspiration for changemakers across North America and beyond.

Learn More:

Evaluating Community Impact, Evaluation, Blog, Community Change

Duncan Field

By Duncan Field

Duncan is a researcher, writer, and editor with an interest in supporting community organizations. He works as a Community Animator to create and produce engaging content and learning materials, and help maintain Tamarack’s online spaces. Duncan comes to Tamarack by way of York and Queen’s University, with experience studying Psychology, Philosophy, and Law. Most recently, Duncan worked in the charitable sector designing and producing e-learning courses, as well as building online communities of practice.

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