Outcomes management: the bigger picture

Outcomes Management

Guided by international expert David Pritchard, SVA’s latest thought-leadership discussion in Perth delved into the practice of managing to outcomes – a journey being embarked upon by small and large firms alike.

The chance to unravel the pitfalls and opportunities of outcomes management, share knowledge and gain insights drew an engaged audience of leaders from WA’s social impact sector to this early morning event.

Joining David Pritchard on the floor, were SVA consulting director Simon Faivel and principal Steph Shorter – who facilitated what quickly became a lively, thought-provoking exchange.

As the former head of Measurement and Evaluation for London-based New Philanthropy Capital, Pritchard drew on his wealth of experience advising non-profits and governments to open proceedings with a round-up of global insights.

Acknowledging the shift towards a measurement mindset, he highlighted the importance of developing a culture of outcomes management that is grounded in learning and continuous improvement, rather than one that’s driven by changing funder requirements.

Further to this, he pointed to quality data backed by an existing evidence base and a sufficient resource allocation, as the keys to managing to outcomes well.

Make sure you are authentic in your measurement, don’t overstate impact and don’t fool yourself,’ he advised.

Pritchard also honed in on the importance of sharing failures within the sector to learn from one another, encourage vulnerability and avoid ‘an arms race for outcomes’.

Critical success factors

With discussion open to the floor, SVA’s Simon Faivel drew on his work with Te Whānau O Waipareira in New Zealand to answer a question from the audience around the factors critical for success.

Based on this experience, he said, ‘Building an effective outcomes management culture came down to a charismatic, passionate and controversial leader who engaged all of his employees around a clear vision.’

In addition to embedding outcomes into the core operations of the organisation, Faivel emphasised the need to employ and engage a diverse team that can draw on different insights from the data being collected, and the importance of forming long-term relationships with funders and partners.

Tackling complexity

Attendees included CEOs and managers from large NGOs, such as Anglicare WA and MercyCare; managers of foundations, and representatives from large corporate firms, with many embracing the opportunity to better understand effective practice.

Stimulating discussion included a deeper dive into the challenges of measuring impact with cross sector and multi-organisation interventions, as well as in situations where individuals received their own funding like the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

In response, both Pritchard and Faivel shared their knowledge of the collective impact framework and shared measurement approach to provide a common platform for organisations to collect data against the same outcomes, alongside big data to track overall system changes – which reflected some of the key global trends highlighted by Pritchard earlier in his address.

Rounding out this discussion, importance was also placed on capturing the voice of key individuals navigating the system to better understand and overcome barriers to change.

Whose outcomes?

The final theme of the morning revolved around a simple but crucial component for success. As Jennifer Chaplain, Collaboration for Impact, succinctly put it, ‘We need to remember whose outcomes they are.’

Pinpointing exactly what constitutes a meaningful change in someone’s life lies at the heart of the matter. To this end, managing to outcomes is ultimately about working and engaging with individuals and communities to identify and track the changes we all want to see to reduce disadvantage.

As the event wrapped up, it was clear that we’re moving away from talking about outcomes in isolation without recognising how we contribute to the system as a whole. Certainly among those in attendance, the motivation is there to work together more effectively and instead ask ‘what is the theory of change for the system, not just our own programs or organisations?’

As Faivel surmised post-event, ‘It seems there is real engagement with managing to outcomes in the sector and a hunger for systems change.’