The value of Outcome Harvesting in evaluating advocacy

The value of
the Outcome Harvesting tool
in evaluating advocacy organizations
Barbara Klugman
with Ricardo Wilson-Grau
AEA Conference 2012
Meaning of Outcome Harvesting
• ‘Harvesting’ or identifying and formulating actual
outcomes of the advocacy interventions of an
organization or network
Description of a change in a policy or practice
Contribution of the organization or network
Role of other actors in that contribution
Substantiation of these outcomes by those who
made the change happen, or who contributed
• Judging the merit, significance or worth of the
advocacy effort by exploring the depth and meaning
of patterns among the actual outcomes harvested, in
relation to intended outcomes of that group
Why use Outcome Harvesting?
• To bring rigour to organizations’ ability to assess
to what extent their advocacy strategies are
contributing towards their long-term intended
outcomes through
– Naming the outcomes in very specific, measurable terms
(who changed what, when, where)
– Enabling a shift from intuitive assessment of progress to
evidence-based assessments of progress
– Enabling a conversation among activists about which
strategies are working most effectively and which are not
• To identify outcomes that occur in complex
environments reflecting contribution of many actors
OH is especially useful when groups
know what they are trying to achieve
• When organizations have a theory of change
against which to make sense of actual
outcomes and
• Some means of documenting outcomes in an
ongoing way
OH can be an especially powerful aid for
understanding what is being achieved
OH clarifies the relationship between activity,
output and outcome
• Pushes organizations to be honest about
• And be precise about what has changed
• Validates process outcomes which can build
confidence in contexts where outcomes are
‘Exposure’ visit of
Thai land rights activists to India - AJWS*
resulted in outputs
– Shifts in knowledge, motivation and ideas including
recognising each others’ struggles as part of a single
which lead these activists to make changes which
delivered outcomes e.g.
– Created organizational mechanisms to increase
women’s opportunities for leadership
– Strengthened their cross-organizational and crossregional alliances; acted in solidarity with each other
*AJWS - American Jewish World Service
OH accumulates outcomes to show
progress over time e.g. ‘Exposure’ visit of
Thai land rights activists to India
Output: participants recognising value of building movements across
issues & geographies
Outcomes from this learning:
• On returning participants formalized a forum of NGOs, academics
and public opinion leaders in the southern region of Thailand to build a
shared analysis of the multiple issues facing communities.
• Just over two months later when a community in x area was fined for
intruding on private land and their leader was taken to court, other
organizations from the newly consolidated group came to court in a
show of support. Those involved indicate that this would not have
happened before the exposure visit.
Where to find outcomes?
• Organizations are unlikely to have recorded
outcomes fully or rigorously.
Conversely, if they have done so,
• They are likely to want more from OH than a
reiteration of their outcomes
 Requires identifying sources & their quality
before negotiating terms of an evaluation
because of major time and money implications
 Requires ensuring the organization fully
understands what OH will and will not deliver
What OH will not do
• OH does not identify opportunities missed
• OH does not explain the ‘why’ an outcome
• OH can show what current strategies
delivered, but is not forward-looking; it does
not identify current opportunities and
Conclusions: OH is a tool that
• delivers rigorously stated outcomes
• reveals the correlations between these and an
organization’s or a network’s strategies and
intended outcomes;
• delivers an evidence-based assessment of
strategic effectiveness
In addition, these insights can provide an
excellent grounding for broader organizational
or strategic evaluations

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