Over the past few years, all those who work in the health, community services, social innovation or social enterprise sectors would have regularly heard the catch-cry ‘we need to measure outcomes not outputs.’ This is all well and good, but nobody ever said it was easy. For a bit of complexity, the list of terms used interchangeably for evaluation includes outcome measurement, social impact, results-based accountability, return on investment, performance accountability plus many more.

As the sector and investors both move towards funding models based on social benefit bonds and measuring social impact, it’s important to be mindful of the reasons for all these well-intended efforts. Ultimately, all of the above terms aim to answer the same questions:

Are our programs making a difference?

How much of a difference are we making, and where?

Are we investing resources in the best way possible?

What have we learnt?

We aren’t knocking the importance of making measuring the impact of any program or service a priority.  However, we do know that those faced with planning programs and making important decisions on what to do with limited resources are faced with a lot of ‘noise’ around evaluation. That’s why we think it’s important to try and cut through some of this noise and reflect on how we can make evaluation work well. It seems that we all know that this is the way things are going, yet we don’t have the underlying methodology of evaluation fully worked out or systems in place to make this job any easier.

Project evaluation is kind of like maintaining healthy weight, there are many ways to do so, some approaches are gimmicky, many are unsustainable, few are evidence based. At the end of the day, there are no shortcuts to evaluating a project successfully and no substitute for planning to evaluate. This mentality should be the guiding principle behind any system used to manage an individual’s journey from an initial risk assessment or baseline screening to measuring program outcomes and the broader social impact - no matter what the intervention or who the end user might be.

Here at Beacon Strategies we have invested in a platform that can be utilised for organisations across a broad range of sectors. BeaconDB is a fully customisable, cloud based and secure platform which we have initially configured to measure impacts and outcomes in programs aimed at tracking the progress of an individual or family. We aren't simply selling a database. Our services ensure both the right tools and the right methodologies are used to collect meaningful data and outline the story it tells.

We offer BeaconDB at an affordable price in addition to working with you to build a system that will meet your impact measurement needs. Not only will you get ongoing technical support to ensure you are measuring the right things, we offer full reporting and evaluation services so you will never have to stress come reporting time.

Head to http://www.beaconstrategies.net/beacondb for the full lowdown.