DEFINE OUTCOMES - Writing Meaningful Outcomes
Funding agencies are place more and more emphasis on the succinct description in proposals and eventual delivery of outcomes by funded projects. As a guide in the development of a credible and robust proposal, a useful place to start, once you have identified an issue in which you are interested, is the definition of the outcomes you expect to deliver. Detailing your expected outcomes will guide your choices of project activities, measures, evaluations and team members, as well as outlining budget categories and elements that meet project needs.
Outcomes versus Outputs.
- It is important to distinguish “accomplishments” that are outcomes rather than an output. An output can be thought of as a measurable product that results from a certain activity, and can generally be seen or experienced, e.g., websites, publications, patents, trainees. Producing outputs leads to outcomes.
An outcome is generally a change in something. There are three types of change that are useful to describe:
- Change in Knowledge: occurs when a participant (scientist, trainee, citizen, etc.) learns or becomes aware.
- Change in Action: occurs when there is a change in behavior or the participants act upon what they have learned (adoption of techniques and methods or a change in practice).
- Change in Condition: occurs when a societal or industry condition is changed due to a participant’s action.
NIFA generally relies on brief “stories” to relay outcomes.
- These stories generally consist of three aspects: Issue, what has been done, and results (which includes changes that have occurred). In “what has been done” section, they like to see a brief mention of what methodologies were used to collect/measure/evaluate data. Indeed, it would be useful to succinctly explain what evaluation methodologies were used to generate data for the indicator measures.
Outcome stories or statements should show public value.
- Ask yourself why the program would be important to constituents.
- Be direct and to the point
- Don’t make language overly formal or scientific so that it cannot be understood by a wide range of audiences.
Write your outcomes story as if it will need to grab people’s attention on the front page of a newspaper, make it clear that THIS story has an IMPACT on people/the community/the state.
DEVELOP YOUR LOGIC MODEL
A logic model is a planning tool to clarify and graphically display what your project intends to do and what it hopes to accomplish and impact. Think of a logic model as a map that you develop to clarify and communicate what your project intends to do and its presumed impact. A generic template is offered for use.
A logic model:
- Summarizes key program elements;
- Explains rationale behind program activities;
- Clarifies intended outcomes;
- Provides a communication tool
According to the W. K. Kellogg Foundation Logic Model Development Guide, the basic components include:
|Resources dedicated to or consumed by the program
||What the program does with the inputs to fulfill its mission
||The direct products of program activities
||Benefits for participants during and after program activities
||Desired long term result of the program
While there are some overlaps, a logic model should not be confused with a project action plan. The differences are clarified in the paper titled Everything You Wanted to Know About Logic Models But Were Afraid to Ask.