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Outcome Mapping: Building Learning and Reflection into Development Programs

Sarah Earl, Fred Carden, and Terry Smutylo

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Outcome Mapping provides not only a guide to essential evaluation map-making, but also a guide to learning and increased effectiveness, and affirmation that being attentive along the journey is as important as, and critical to, arriving at a destination.
— Michael Quinn Patton

More and more, development organizations are under pressure to demonstrate that their programs result in significant and lasting changes in the well-being of their intended beneficiaries. However, such "impacts" are often the product of a confluence of events for which no single agency or group of agencies can realistically claim full credit. As a result, assessing development impacts is problematic, yet many organizations continue to struggle to measure results far beyond the reach of their programs.

Outcome Mapping recognizes that development is essentially about people relating to each other and their environment. The originality of this approach lies in its shift away from assessing the products of a program to focus on changes in behaviour, relationships, actions, and activities in the people, groups, and organizations it works with directly. In doing so, Outcome Mapping debunks many of the myths about measuring impact. It will help a program be specific about the actors it targets, the changes it expects to see, and the strategies it employs and, as a result, be more effective in terms of the results it achieves. This publication explains the various steps in the outcome mapping approach and provides detailed information on workshop design and facilitation. It includes numerous worksheets and examples.

The authors

Sarah Earl holds a master’s degree in Russian politics and development from Carleton University and an MA in Russian history from the University of Toronto. She has carried out research and worked in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and since 1998 has worked for IDRC’s Evaluation Unit.

Fred Carden holds a PhD from the Université de Montréal and a master’s degree in environmental studies from York University. He has taught and carried out research at York University, the Cooperative College of Tanzania, the Bandung Institute of Technology (Indonesia), and the University of Indonesia. Dr Carden is coauthor of Enhancing Organizational Performance (IDRC 1999) and senior program specialist in IDRC’s Evaluation Unit.

Terry Smutylo has been the Director of IDRC’s Evaluation Unit since its creation in 1992. He holds a master’s degree in African studies from the University of Ghana and an undergraduate degree in sociology from the University of Toronto. Mr Smutylo has worked extensively throughout the developing world and has been involved in conducting evaluations, providing evaluation training, and facilitating workshops in Canada, the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

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