Contracting for Services? Or Contracting for Outcomes?Sep 14, 2021
How do you move from not-for-profit to for-impact?
There has been considerable attention recently to demonstrating value through outcomes or impact, rather than outputs. Obvious examples are impact on literacy or employment, rather than mere attendance at programs or participant satisfaction. We have traditionally focused on these activities rather than actual outcomes.
There is an interesting movement now in the public service to contract for outcomes in social services rather than simply purchasing activities regardless of results. An example might be contracting for employment success or reduction in unemployment in a specific group or area, rather than just purchasing job training services as an activity – and then measuring participation and satisfaction.
Do you Contract for Activities or Impact?
It is perhaps helpful to review how your organization contracts for services (whether facilities management or key programs) and speculate as to whether you contract for activities or for outcomes and impact. And how do you ensure that the contract holder has reasonable measures, effectively applied?
It is even more interesting to speculate about internal contracts for service based on outcomes, that is, changing “youth literacy services” to “school readiness” or “family literacy” units, or “student support” to “student achievement” units…
Let’s take it a step further and instead of simply assessing outcomes, actually designing and testing for outcomes such that two of your units or departments or locations might take different approaches to achieving a desired outcome with specific means of assessment by the system, and with reporting of performance results.
Redesign Your Outcomes
We need not only a focus on outcomes but on a redesign for outcomes, and increasing internal assessment of results, holding our professional staff accountable for results, and for redesigning for better results based on evidence.
We also need better in-house incubators for testing and assessment before rolling out the next new thing across an entire system.
Measuring outcomes and impact are not easy. They need not be done all the time nor with every program or service. But we need some recognizable and credible measures of impact to assure funders and members of their return on investment.
What are your main “pain points” dealing with outcomes assessment? What advice would be most helpful to you? And we always assume that you are asking for a friend!
Get in touch. We’ll address your questions and concerns in an upcoming blog post.
P.S. May I ask a tiny favour?
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