This Framework encourages cultural development planners to focus on outcomes, rather than focussing on activities, which are the means to the ends. While objectives are set at the beginning of an initiative to assist achievement of outcomes, the final outcomes of an initiative may not necessarily match original objectives. In the process of undertaking an activity, objectives may change: the original objectives may prove unreachable or inappropriate. Objectives may not be reached, despite best intentions. Outcomes that were originally desired may prove to be undesirable for any number of reasons.
The following definitions are offered to distinguish these different concepts:
- objective: the specific result the council seeks to achieve
- inputs are the resources used to produce outputs
- outputs are the things you do during a program or project – for instance spend money and create works. This does not usually provide data for meaningful evaluation
- outcomes are the consequences directly attributable, at least in part, to the program or project and are usually measured at, or shortly after, completion;
- impacts are generally seen as intended or unintended changes in organisations, communities or systems at a broader level and often over a longer timescale, usually sometime after a project has been completed. Consequently, councils more than ever require data to inform their planning and policy indicators to help evaluate, measure and legitimise the impact of their work (Blomkamp 2011; Poirier 2005; Johnston & Memon 2008).
As social researchers West and Cox (2009) comment:
The tool used to deliver improvement – whether services, programs, capital projects, advocacy, grant funding etc. – is far less relevant than the outcome, or real difference, experienced by the community.
Conceptualising outcomes of our work
In conceptualising the outcomes we seek as a result of our plans, we need to take the following steps:
Consider success: what would success look like?
How would we know we have addressed the council goal?
- Blomkamp, E. (2011)
- Johnston & Memon, (2008).
- Poirier, (2005)
- West & Cox (2009). A local government reporting framework for the 21st century: a response to the local government performance monitoring framework issues paper. Melbourne: Community Indicators Victoria. Accessed 5 October 2010 from http://www.esc.vic.gov.au/NR/rdonlyres/286E0150-C1E8-4973-9FB4-582DE4476226/0/TheUniversityofMelbourne.pdf.