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Outcome Mapping

What is it about?

Outcome mapping is an innovative approach to planning, monitoring and evaluating international development work. The approach was first developed by the IDRC in the late 1990s in an attempt to deal with some of the main problems related to common monitoring and evaluation practices (These include for instance the often problematic ways in which developing agencies are trying to attribute certain impacts to the activities they support and the fact that the heavy emphasis on demonstrating the impact of programmes has meant that the development of learning capacities within organizations themselves has been ignored).

The key characteristic of outcome mapping is that it aims at measuring and monitoring the behavioural changes instead of the development impacts (defined as a significant and lasting change in the well-being of large numbers of intended beneficiaries).

Furthermore, outcome mapping focuses on a change in behaviour among the direct project partners, or so-called boundary partners which are in the direct sphere of influence of the programme, i.e. with which the programme interacts directly. As such, the approach wants to do away with the widely applied practice among donor agencies to claim credit for results and impacts, which, even though being the overall objective of the programme, are not directly attributable to the actions of one donor agency but are rather the result of complex processes in which many actors are involved.

Thirdly, outcome mapping fosters programme learning by incorporating self-assessment and reflecting processes throughout the planning, monitoring and evaluation phase.

Outcome mapping has already been applied in the planning and evaluation of various development programmes and projects, and, over the years, various tools have been developed which can be adapted to different contexts.

Potential Uses

Firstly, there seems to be some value in the approach taken by outcome mapping to focus on the measurement and monitoring of behavioural changes amongst the boundary partners (as opposed to the classical approach of measuring the development impacts). The approach seems to be especially relevant for programmes and projects that explicitly seek to achieve certain behavioural changes.

Secondly, outcome mapping might provide some useful tools that can be used to ensure that the learning experience, which is at the core of weADAPT, might actually be realized. Experience in applying outcome mapping has shown that, despite the best intentions, learning does not happen naturally but it can be built into work practices through data collection and reflection processes.

Thirdly, the outcome mapping community has created a web-based environment for learning and exchanging information. This web-based environment shares main of the ideas and philosophies that are underlying the weADAPT initiative and some useful lessons might be drawn from their experiences.

Finally, it should be noted that outcome mapping could be used at the programme level (the platform level) as well as on the project level.

Possible weaknesses

  • Used as a programme monitoring and evaluation tool, it should be realized that the approach might not be accepted by all donor agencies
  • Even though the approach has shifted the focus away from measuring development impacts (an as such has solved some of the main problems with classical programme evaluation approaches) the problem of defining good indicators for ‘a change in behaviour’ and how to measure it, remains?
  • Outcome mapping is not suitable for all kind of projects and programmes and will only be useful for programmes and projects that try to generate social and behavioural change. It should also be realized that the approach is not all-encompassing and that it can be complemented by the measurement of more tangible parameters.

Where to find more information about outcome mapping?


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