Most people seem to intuitively grasp what we are trying to achieve when we present the workshop, and most take well to the assumption that it allows for better planning, monitoring and evaluation, but a set of common challenges seem to arise. In this entry I highlight three of these challenges and give an idea of how I try to get around them. I would be interested to hear from anyone how they approach these.
Participants find it difficult to distinguish outputs, outcomes and impacts from one another. Even if we give them plenty of examples, clear definitions and an opportunity to practice their identification of the different kinds of results, they still find it difficult to correctly place these in the results chain. It is not absolutely crucial that they are placed correctly, but it definitely helps when you are later developing and indicators matrix. To help participants, I often give the following explanation
- Outputs are what your programme delivers and are often a tangible indication that some activity was completed.
- Outcomes are the changes you hope to see in the behaviour / skill / knowledge / values / attitudes of those you interact with in the shorter term.
- Impacts are the other organisational and longer term changes you hope to see as a result of changed behaviour / skills / knowledge / values / attitudes of the participants.
And then I demonstrate it with a tomato plant example:
- Planting tomato seeds, fertilising them and watering the soil are likely to result in a number of green sprouts emerging as a direct result of your "intervention". These aren't yet the tomatoes, but they tell you that you that some activity was completed and that you are possibly on your way to some sort of meaningful result (Output).
- Having big fat red juicy tomatoes harvested tells you that you have achieved something - the seeds changed into something more useful (Outcome).
- If you are able to eat your tomatoes and enhance your nutrition or if you sell the tomatoes to supplement your income, these are impact level results (Impact).
When participants do a problem analysis they tend to accurately identify the level of intervention required to actually solve a problem. But when it comes to planning the intervention, they loose sight of the magnitude of the problem (despite being encouraged to go back to the problem analysis) and rather focus on the practicalities as it relates to their current organisational strength. So they agree to do two three hour workshops per term because that is all that they can manage. I often have to point them to the example again to get them to understand the effect of this kind of programming:
In the tomato plant example this equates to agreeing to water the tomatoes only once a month because that is all you have the time and staff for. And it obviously could lead to a reduction in the benefits gained.
When developing a Log Frame Indicators Matrix, people have great difficulty in ensuring that the indicator , target and means of verification align well.
- They might talk about the number of something in the indicator and put a percentage in the target. E.g. Indicator: The number of indicators that complete the course. Target: 90% of all Educators
- They might talk about an increase in performance when they phrase the indicators, but only refer to a single measurement opportunity in the means of verification without any baseline data available. E.g. Indicator: Increase in learner performance on literacy test. Target: 80% of learners must pass. Means of Verification: End of year test
I have used the the following "recipe" with some success.
Appropriate targets if your indicator says something about an
INCREASE / IMPROVEMENT IN
–Number of people with skill / knowledge / appropriate behaviour
*e.g. 20% more people ….
–The knowledge / skill / quality level at which your participants can do something
*e.g. Average knowledge score increases with x%
- The number of people achieving a certain standard increases (e.x. pass, expemption)
* e.g. Number of persons passing increases with 20% over baseline
NOTE If you speak about an increase / improvement in your indicator / target your means of verification presupposes that knowledge about the baseline conditions and at least one other period in time will be required.
Appropriate targets if your indicator says something about achieving a
–Number of people achieving the minimum standard
*e.g. 80% of people must at least pass / get 80%
NOTE: This could be measured at a single instance only
Appropriate targets if your indicator says something about establishing SOMETHING NEW
–Number of people doing / showing something new
* e.g. 125 people must submit a business plan to COMSA
–The frequency with which people do something new
*e.g. Teachers to include open-ended questioning at least once in all observed lessons
Note: This could be measured at a single instance only.