Outcome Harvesting collects (“harvests”) evidence of what has changed (“outcomes”) and, then, working backwards, determines whether and how an intervention has contributed to these changes.
Reflecting on Impact and project implementation
Outcome Harvesting has proven to be especially useful in complex situations when it is not possible to define concretely most of what an intervention aims to achieve. This makes it especially relevant in the context of Digital Social Impact courses, projects and initiatives where it can be hard to anticipates the full extent of the social impact until the reflection phase.
Outcome Harvesting does not measure progress towards predetermined objectives or outcomes, but rather, collects evidence of what has changed and, then, working backwards, determines whether and how an intervention contributed to these changes. The outcome(s) can be positive or negative, intended or unintended, direct or indirect, but the connection between the intervention and the outcomes should be plausible.
Students with facilitator/outcomes harvester
1 Design the Outcome Harvest: The first step is to agree what information is to be collected and from whom. At a minimum, this involves obtaining information about the changes in social actors and how the intervention influenced them.
2 Review documentation and draft outcome descriptions. Review reports and project work documents etc. to identify potential outcomes (i.e., changes in individuals, groups, communities, organisations or institutions) and what the intervention did to contribute to them.
3 Formulate outcome descriptions. Engage directly with all stakeholders involved to review the outcome descriptions based on the document review, and to identify and formulate additional outcomes.
4 Substantiate: Review the final outcomes and select those to be verified in order to increase the accuracy and credibility of the findings. Obtain the views of one or more individuals who are independent of the intervention (third party) but knowledgeable about one or more of the outcomes and the student’s contribution.
5 Analyse and interpret: Classify all outcomes, often in consultation with the stakeholders. The classifications may be related to the objectives and strategies of either the implementer of the intervention (i.e. students) or other stakeholders, such as the social partners.
6 Support use of findings: Propose issues for discussion grounded in the evidence-based answers to the harvesting questions. Facilitate further discussions with social partners, which may include how they can make use of the findings.