I was intrigued with the question of “how to explain Outcome Mapping (OM) in 2 minutes?”, as it takes me –like many other program evaluators- hours to address this question! Nevertheless, challenged to describe the approach to non-OM conversant, I tend to highlight key features to distinguish OM from other tools. Ideally I tend not to bombard the client/ discussant with OM terminology. I prefer to speak the conventional evaluation notion/ language, and often match and supplement it with OM-specific terms/ notions (such as BP~ stakeholders; progress markers ~ indicators, etc…). Here is my 2 cents input:
OM’s power is that it uncover the unintended outcomes that the project/ program contributes to in a complex dynamic system (typical of any development project/ program). Something that other tools overlook!
- Unintended outcomes relate to BP partners’ behaviors (usually I use the term stakeholders or partners/ actors to introduce Boundary partners BP notion). These outcomes are a key guarantee for sustaining the intervention’s effects in a community. These are the earnings that communities will accumulate and use.
- Contribution rather than attribution: (1) since in a dynamic system, actors are exposed to various factors that shape/ influence/ and affect their behaviors; (2) we can’t isolate one intervention and chase it to evaluate its effects (we are not experimenting in-vitro!)
- Methodologically- as a tool:
- It provides another check on the intervention outcomes by revisiting and redefining them as they emerge in real-time interventions through the theory of change framework
- It provides a realistic narrative of the intervention linking project intended outputs and outcomes with unintended ones.
- Its provides an appropriate mapping of partners/ actors involved in the intervention
- OM Map is essential tool to trace the changes through the progress markers. It is fundamental in the next planning cycle.
I conclude in nutshell that OM provides the opportunity to look at the intervention inductively. I believe this is a great learning opportunity for clients to match their deductive approach in planning with the OM inductive lens! It is definitely an eye opener for program evaluators and actors too.
This is my quick take on OM. Am I done in 2 minutes?