Involve Young People

Build Evidence:

Demonstrating outcomes

Outcomes are the changes and effects that have happened as a result of your project, program or activity. These can generally be split into two types: ‘hard’ outcomes and ‘soft’ outcomes.
Different outcomes
  • Hard outcomes are things that can be easily seen and measured – e.g. the number of young people using a service, the increase in young people participating in a program.
  • Soft outcomes are harder to measure – they relate to someone’s attitudes or perceptions about a young person’s involvement. E.g. how young people feel, what skills they have learned, how their health and wellbeing has improved.
Measuring soft outcomes

Some soft outcomes you might be interested in evaluating are:

  • 21st century work skills: increased
    • problem solving and decision making
    • creative and critical thinking
    • collaboration, communication and negotiation
    • ability to research and evaluate information
  • Attitudinal skills: increased motivation, confidence or independence, or improved attitude or behaviour
  • Personal skills: improved organisation, presentation, social or timekeeping skills.
  • Practical skills: improved ability to complete activities or perform actions or techniques

To evaluate exactly what changes have occurred, you’ll need to collect relevant information before and after the project, program and activity. (In fact, it’s best to try and collect this information at regular intervals).

This means working with young people to figure out where they’re currently at and where they want to be. Then checking in with them about how they are faring. You can use rating scales to help with this. For example, at the start of a sports program you could ask young people to rate their ability to perform a certain technique. You could keep checking in with them as the program goes on to see how they rate their technique, to see if they feel they are improving.  

Some other ways that you and/or young people can work together to measure changes are:

  • Daily/weekly blogs, diaries or journals
  • Video or audio recording
  • Questionnaires

Tips on choosing what to measure

  • Decide what’s important – work out what you really want to know, or need to evidence. (If you have a funding agreement, be sure to check you're measuring what you've agreed to).
  • Keep it simple – use a process that you can afford and that’s easy for anyone to understand.
  • Get support – ask for guidance from local youth services or invest in training if you need it.
  • Think long-term – create evaluation systems and processes you can return to, as this will keep building an evidence base.
  • Involve young people – it can’t be said enough! Make sure young people are helping you identify what can be measured and choosing what’s relevant to them.

Different ways to demonstrate outcomes

The New Economics Foundation Prove It! toolkit follows three steps: deciding what to measure with a storyboard, collecting information with a survey and looking back on what actually happened with a project reflection workshop.

The Young Foundation has created a framework of outcomes for young people, which includes a full matrix of tools. This is a model that uses seven interlinked ‘clusters’ of social and emotional capabilities linked to outcomes such as educational attainment, employment and health.

What you can do now

Copps, J. (2011) Measuring Soft Outcomes – what you need to know.

Comfort, H., Merton, B., Payne, M. and Flint, W. (2006) Capturing the Evidence: tools and processes for recognizing and recording the impact of youth work, National Youth Agency (NYA) (there is a charge to download this e-book).

Geldens, P. and Randall, L. (2012), ‘Sounds like a plan: Engaging young people in research and community planning’, Research 101(a) Involving young people in research.

Randall, L. (2011), Is it working? Workshop delivered at the May 2011 Youth Participation Practice Network forum.

Rowe, L. and Wright, R. (2010), Demonstrating Soft Outcomes...and the impact voluntary organisations have on reducing health inequalities, The Care Forum.

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