Outcome Harvesting is a participatory monitoring and evaluation method based on the principles of Outcome Mapping. The methodology identifies, formulates, validates and analyses changes (outcomes) to which a particular intervention or practice has contributed. Thus, in addition to detecting the changes, the contribution of the intervention or practice is also investigated.
Outcome Harvesting does not measure progress towards predetermined outcomes or objectives, but rather collects evidence of what has been achieved, and works backward to determine whether and how the project or intervention contributed to the change.The outcome(s) can be positive or negative (depending on whose view counts), intended or unintended, direct or indirect.
Outcomes are changes in behaviour, policies, and/or practices of a societal actor (a governmental body,companies and/or communities).
How does Outcome Harvesting work?
In Outcome Harvesting, short descriptions are formulated about the behavioural changes of social actors.
Here are some key questions:
What is the change?
How important/significant is this change?
How did the intervention/project contribute to the change?
The changes (outcomes) are 'harvested' with the project team and/or partners. Subsequently, the information is validated by external people or existing evidence in order to arrive at a valid and plausible account of outcomes and contribution of the program. Outcome Harvesting is based on demonstrable change using different data collection techniques such as workshops, interviews or progress reports.
Outcome Harvesting is a methodology that can be rolled out at any time and in any project or practice.
When is Outcome Harvesting useful?
Outcome Harvesting focuses on collecting evidence of a) outcomes (who has changed what policy/practice), irrespective of whether the outcome was planned or not, and b) how the intervention contributed to this change. In addition to that, Outcome Harvesting focuses on c) the significance (so what?) and meaning that various groups of stakeholders give to the outcomes.
The method is very much geared towards learning about ‘what works, and what does not, for whom, why and where’ and based on that offering suggestions for making adjustments to the project/programme. At the same time the method provides evidence of outcomes and contribution of the program.
It is especially useful in situations where cause and effect are not predictable and where multiple actors and factors played a role in the change process. OH is a participatory method and is particularly suitable for understanding the supported change process and for continually improving practice.
The main features and steps of the Outcome Harvesting process:
1. Design the outcome harvest
The individuals that document outcomes/changes (called harvesters) start by planning the harvesting: Who will be engaged? Where? When? Where to find information? Who to interview?
2. Gather data and draft outcome descriptions
The harvesters collect data and evidence to identify changes, and formulates outcome descriptions, using different data sources and methods.
3. Verify outcome descriptions
To assure quality of outcome descriptions, the harvesters refine the outcome descriptions through checking for consistency, correctness and completeness with his/her peers and others.
4. Substantiate the outcome descriptions
Informants knowledgeable about the outcome but external to/independent of the partner organisation are invited to provide feedback to (a sample of) the outcome descriptions. This will increases credibility and accuracy of the changes.
5. Analyse and interpret the outcome descriptions
The harvesters and colleagues jointly identify and understand patterns, processes and trends of change among (clusters) of outcome descriptions.
6. Support the use of findings
The last step of the Outcome Harvesting approach is focused on the interpretation of the analysis for future practice/decision making in and planning of the programme.
"The method is very much geared towards learning about ‘what works, and what does not, for whom, why and where’ and based on that offering suggestions for making adjustments to the project or programme."
Something for your organisation?
We like to work on tailor-made projects/programmes and are happy to discuss how Outcome Harvesting can fit into your organisation or project.