Start the conversation
Map Your Impact
Ways of knowing – identifying indicators
What to measure
To know how to ‘prove the value’ or measure the impact of your work, start with your organisation’s mission, its business plan and its values. Then to clarify the changes that you want to see happen and will need to measure, you can use a ‘storyboard’ or Impact Map to tell the story clearly.
You then can develop indicators that will help you to know when a change (sometimes called an outcome) has happened. From there, you can ask your stakeholders questions about which changes have happened, and how, in a variety of ways.
By asking good questions and gathering fuller information, you can also find out about the effects you intended, or didn’t intend, which can often positive changes, and sometimes show negative consequences. By asking about the changes you expected to see, as ell as getting a more open-ended, fuller picture all round, you can maximise positive change, hopefully minimise any negative consequences.
This section helps you to clarify what information you need, and how to find it by guiding you through the conversation, storyboard, mapping your impact and ways of knowing.
Read through the following questions and think about the answers you would give for each one.
Having started the conversation you can summarise the answers that you come up with in the numbered boxes on a ‘Storyboard’. (Note that each of the numbered questions above refers to a box or a triangle on the Storyboard.)
You can do them in any order. Feel free to add extra comments to boxes as and when ideas occur to you during the conversation.
Printing a version on A3 paper, or reproducing it as a large poster will allow you to stick the Storyboard on a wall so that comments can be added by more than one person. Using Post-it notes to record people's comments means that they can be moved about on the poster until you agree in which part of the story they should come.
Completing your Storyboard will help you to fill in an Impact Map, so you can go from telling your story, to becoming clear about what to measure.
Impact mapping is a tool that can be used to describe what you will be looking for, as well as the evidence that tells you if what you have been doing has made a positive difference.
For an Impact Map template or an interactive version, go to My Impact Map
As a first step to choosing and developing indicators (literally: ways of knowing that something has happened or changed) ask yourself how you will know that a particular Input has been delivered, how you will know that an activity has successfully produced a particular Output, and how you will know that, that Output has successfully brought about an Outcome and an Impact. Do this for each of the items you have listed in each of the columns on the Impact map.
On a third sheet of flipchart paper, make a long list of these ‘ways of knowing’. This will be the basis for a master list of the things you need to measure in order to be able to tell your story.
Here’s a possible ‘story’. For a training session (Activity) to have been a success it needs to have been delivered (Output) with a certain number of people attending (Output) who gain a new skill (Output). They then may successfully apply for a job using their new skill (Outcome), or they may find that they are enjoying their current job more (Outcome).
This means that they stay in a particular job for longer (Outcome), and are able to take on more roles and responsibilities as their confidence grows (Outcome). In the long run if this happens for enough people in a neighbourhood there will be a higher proportion of people in employment able to achieve a better quality of life for themselves and their families (Impact).
So if we were to make a rough list of the ways we will know that the training has been a success, it might include:
Some will be easy to count, others will be extremely difficult, or impossible to measure or collect information on. At this stage, when compiling this long list, don’t feel constrained by what you think you can measure. For many of them, you will find that you are collecting information on them already, but realistically you can’t cover everything. When finalising your indicators you’ll need to decide what you can feasibly do with the time and resources you have available.
“Did we accomplish the positive change we set out to? Did we meet our goals or objectives?”
“What changes happened as a result of our work?”
‘What unexpected or unplanned effects did our actions have on people, theenvironment, or the local economy?’