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Home » News » Blog: Setting indicators - separating impact from process

Blog: Setting indicators - separating impact from process

Tom Scott, Evaluation Support Scotland’s Training Officer talks about the importance of separating impact from process when setting indicators. Here in this blog he uses his experience over the last two years working with a range of third sector organisations to show how they make a difference.

We have set our outcomes and they look great! But how will we know if our outcomes have been achieved? Outcome indicators of course! “The things that help you to determine whether you have made the differences that you hope to make in the lives of the people that use your services”. Is it that simple? Consider the outcome, “Parents have improved understanding of cooking from scratch”. For this outcome we might have the following (wrong!) indicators:

1.   Participants attend the cooking sessions

2.   The programme of support is externally approved

3.   Tutor works in partnership with the participants

4.   Participants successfully complete validated assessment

5.   Feedback shows that they appreciate the support

All of these indicators are telling us something but they won’t give us evidence that the outcome has been achieved. It is important to separate impact from process. The indicators above are focussed respectively on activity, quality, organisational values, evaluation method and customer feedback. None of them are focussed on evidencing change or difference. When we ask what this outcome would look like if it happened we get a very different list:

1.   Feels more confident in the kitchen

2.   Knows about the benefits of cooking from scratch

3.   Can describe the process of preparing meals

4.   Knows about different food groups

5.   Aware of the hazards involved in cooking

If we want to evidence change then the indicators we use need to reflect that. When it comes to evidencing your outcomes, you need to use outcome indicators that tell you to what extent your outcomes are being achieved. Quality measures, Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and organisational milestones are all important for their own purposes but they can’t be used to gather evidence on whether or not a parent is further along the journey to being able to cook in their own home.

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