How can you be sure that your volunteer effort translates into measurable benefits? Or, are you interested in measuring your service outcomes?
Senior Research Officer Lena Etuk spoke at the NSW Centre for Volunteering about her work at the Amplify program, the Centre for Social Impact, University of New South Wales that has a mission to catalyse social change.
Lena explained that services serving disadvantaged and vulnerable populations are “often program rich and systems poor…we’re focussed on service delivery, but if we want to demonstrate social impact then we need to measure outcomes."
Outputs are discrete and easily observed such as products or events – a book published, an event hosted – as part of a service or program, whereas an outcome is the social impact of the service delivered.
"Traditionally the focus has been on outputs not outcomes, but now we are starting to see a shift because organisations are now being funded to deliver on outcomes”.
But it’s not only relationships with funding bodies and philanthropists that benefit the organisation. Staff and volunteers are likely to rate their own contribution more valuably if the proof of their work can be measured and described.
“It’s hard to get the message to your volunteers and say for sure ‘this is the outcome that you are contributing to’ if we don’t have a good way of measuring the outcome.”
Lena explained that the Amplify program is aims to address complex social issues by developing research, engaging with industry partners and developing an online platform for understanding if, where, and for whom social problems exist; accurately measuring social impact; and reporting and benchmarking social outcomes.
The online platform and background data are currently being developed and will become progressively available from June 2019.
In the meantime read-up on outcomes measurement in The Compass: Your Guide to Social Impact Measurement. According to the Centre for Social Impact The Compass is a guide to help services understand if they are making a difference in their work by exploring and explaining key topics, concepts, questions and principles of outcomes measurement.
"If you are interested in understanding whether, and how, social change has occurred and you are taking steps to measure (that is, “assess the importance, effect or value” of what you do) and communicate social impact, this guide is for you."
For questions, to offer comments or for more information go to the Amplify home page at UNSW.
Pic: Lena Etuk