Most nonprofit organisations and social enterprises are on an outcomes/impact measurement journey, meaning they are developing strategies to understand and evidence how their services and activities are creating social change and impact. Measuring outcomes communicates to donors, policy makers and funders about the value their organisation offers communities. It demonstrates accountability to clients and customers, and it helps organisations manage and improve the impact they make.
While measuring outcomes is an important activity, is not an easy journey. The stepping stones include learning key terminology, mapping outcomes and measuring outcomes using different data collection tools and approaches. The contextual factors such as the size of the organisation, resources and timeframes must all be considered as well, to ensure the organisation completes their journey successfully.
The life jacket (in this analogy) is the organisational culture that supports the organisation and those who work there. Cultures that support ‘outcomes management’ and evaluation engage everyone to be more willing and able to measure what matters, and share stories of learning and change.
To help the nonprofit and social enterprise sector take strides on their journey, this QUTeX course, Social Impact Evaluation Principles and Practices, covers designing a theory of change, identifying and comparing evaluation methodologies; identify issues related to collecting and analysing data; data visualisation; and strategies to report impact. Delivered over three sessions the course uses experiential small group activities, reflective practice and discussion to support participants learn and develop their understanding.
Chris Sieboth, Executive Lead for Community Services and Lutheran Services, and one of our participants had this to say about the course (see full video below):
A great way to learn and sharpen my focus on measuring what matters most in the work I lead”
In the first course held in mid-2021, thirty-nine individuals from sixteen organisations attended. At least two people attended from each organisation and this was a successful approach as many people said they found it helpful to continue discussing what they had learnt with their colleague back at work.
Using a set of questions to measure individual and organisational change, the course evaluated the outcomes for participants. The evaluation found participants improved their own knowledge significantly.
There was also evidence that the course had a positive impact on the participant’s organisation as well. One attendee said
The course has capacity to turbo charge an organisation’s development of a Theory of Change, and put you on track to better evidencing your impact.”
Hi, I’m Chris Sieboth.
I’m the Executive Lead for Community Services with Lutheran Services, an organisation that provides care to a whole range of social important projects throughout southeast Queensland.
I recently was involved with QUTeX Social Impact Evaluation Principles and Practices.
Who or what influenced you to attend this course?
One of the main reasons that I enrolled with one of my colleagues from our team, was to see exactly the impact of the work that we do. For many years we continue to provide services to a whole range of people in different situations but it’s often hard to measure exactly the true impact of what are the outcomes for not only the clients that we work with but also staff and more as well. Recently we have been funded by Hand Heart Pocket, a charitable organisation that is really interested in the outcomes for young people in the community.
One of the driving forces behind Hand Heart Pocket was for us to also show what a theory of change might look like and the impact for the clients that we serve. So, together we sought the support of QUT and many of the professional advice that is part of QUTeX and enrolled in the course.
How did this course inspire your personal growth?
One of the great things that, in reflecting on my career, as well as the course, was that there are many good things that we’re doing.
This particular course was able to break it down into what is the theory of change, that is, why do we do certain things, why do we provide certain services, and then be able to look at what are the outputs the outcomes both short and longer term. The course was well structured so that we really could start it what is the global aim of any of our services and being really clear about our assumptions before we look at the various inputs and resources that we put into those services.
Measuring outcomes is often really difficult but the course really laid it out clearly and developmentally to enable us to reach conclusions… understandings that I would never have reached by myself
How did this course help you transform the organisation that you work for?
So, the real transformation for us at Lutheran Services, is that we are now commencing speaking the same language around what are the design principles that we put into practise. What are we measuring for specifically, the outputs and the outcomes and measuring the impact for our clients.
What this common language is enabling us to do is actually refine the resource inputs so that we’re having the greatest impact at the most efficient way.
What was the highlight of your course experience?
Probably the highlight of the study was really, the coursework was well designed, the pace was good, but one of the greatest highlights is actually working with other participants that I’d never met before from similar organisations right across Brisbane and a wider part of Queensland. Working together in groups, listening to different perspectives and coming up with similar conclusions around what matters most. That was probably my really major highlight. Probably a secondary highlight is that we have now commenced using common language in our organisation around understanding and measuring impact
What advice would you give to someone looking at doing this course?
My advice to anyone considering doing the course is have a go. It really is well constructed, all the materials, the resources that go with it, the videos, the readings really are on point, to enable you to look at your programmes, to look at what really matters most and for me it was really about sharpening my focus, rather than just having my eyes across everything else, I was able to actually really narrow down to the specific areas that we needed to measure most, that had the greatest sensitivity to measuring impact so encourage you to be involved and and I think your organisation will thrive as a benefit of it.