Outcome Mapping is one of the upcoming and popular monitoring and evaluation methods. The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) conceptualized outcome mapping in 2001 as a method for tracking project or program progress or, more accurately, a systematic planning procedure. Outcome mapping’s basic tenet is that progress depends on alterations in people’s behavior. Its emphasis is thus not on project outputs and their effects on the target groups, in contrast to standard impact evaluation approaches. Instead, Outcome Mapping focuses on behavioral shifts often referred to as “outcomes” in the immediate partners that the project is collaborating with, referring thus as “boundary partners.” It was created specifically as a learning aid.
Levels of an outcome mapping
Three levels of thought are necessary for the entire process of outcome mapping:
Design with intention. This stage aids the project or program design team in defining and agreeing upon the macro-level changes it wants to support and formulate the best course of action. The design team should be explicit about the long-term, downstream effects it seeks to achieve, keeping in mind that the project or program cannot accomplish them independently. Instead of acting as merely performance indicators, these desired outcomes will function as reference points to direct the creation of strategies and action plans. For each boundary partner, progress indicators that will be used to monitor performance should be created.
They will pinpoint the gradual and frequent upstream changes that the project or program logically wants to affect, trigger behavioral modification, and provide the groundwork for long-lasting social change. The design team should choose actions with the highest chance of success after defining the changes the project or program seeks to effect.
Monitoring of performance and results
This stage offers a structure for tracking actions and how boundary partners get closer to their goals. The progress indicators, strategy maps, and organizational practices created at the purposeful design stage are built upon in the performance monitoring framework. Three tools are used to gather data and information: a performance journal to track organizational procedures that keep the project or program relevant and viable, a strategy journal to track strategies and activities, and an outcome journal to track boundary partner actions and relationships. With the support of these tools, the design team will be able to reflect on the data and information it has gathered and consider how to use it to enhance performance. These tools will also provide workspace and processes.
Planning for evaluation. This phase assists the design team in setting priorities so that evaluation resources and activities can be directed where they will be most effective. The key parts of the evaluations are outlined in evaluation planning.
Utility of outcome mapping
Outcome mapping should be used when the goal is to identify the actors a project collaborates with and the changes that should be achieved with which strategies. It is also helpful for evaluating the outcomes of initiatives intended to enhance the behavior of complex systems. It can also evaluate the outcomes of development initiatives whose success cannot be primarily determined by quantitative metrics.
As a result, outcome mapping is less useful for demonstrating accountability or determining a project’s direct contribution to development. Since outcome mapping is also a planning and monitoring tool, using it for assessments that begin after a project is complete would not seem to make sense.
Earl, S; Carden, F and Smutylo, T (2001). Outcome Mapping: Building learning and reflection into development programmes. Evaluation Unit, International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Ottawa, Canada.
Simister, N and Smith, R (2010). Monitoring and Evaluating Capacity Building: Is it really that difficult? Praxis paper no. 23, INTRAC, January 2010.