How to measure achievement of client goals

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How to measure achievement of client goals

Being able to measure whether a client is making progress towards achieving their goals is a key way of assessing the effectiveness of many community service organisations.

But how do you measure people’s goals when everyone is so unique? Good question. Here’s a suggestion how to.

What do we measure?

Everyone does have different hopes and aspirations, but we need some way of drawing them together into general categories that will help you get an overall sense of the effectiveness of your service.

If you have funding from the Australian Department of Social Services (DSS) you may already have been given some ideas for general goals for organisations to use. These are also being adopted by DHHS. They do encompass a broad range of people’s needs and circumstances and could provide you with a useful way of categorising client information. Clients’ goals could be:

  • Changed knowledge and access to information
  • Changed skills
  • Changed behaviours
  • Changed confidence to make own decisions
  • Changed engagement with relevant support services
  • Changed impact of an immediate crisis

How do we make it relevant to our service?

You can take these broad categories and relate them to the work you do; your indicator of achievement can be the proportion of clients who are achieving goals relevant to your service delivery. Here are some examples:

Individualised support / case management

The proportion of clients making progress towards or achieving their individual goals or resolving issues they sought assistance for.

Intake and assessment

The proportion of clients who are better connected to relevant services to meet their immediate needs.

The proportion of clients reporting that they are better informed about their choices.

Information, advice, community education

The proportion of individuals or organisations reporting that they have improved awareness or knowledge; improved capacity; or improved commitment to implement desired changes.

Advocacy

The proportion of individuals offered advocacy support who report that they understand their rights or options better; that they are better able to make informed decisions; that they have more confidence in influencing decisions about their life.

 

When do we measure?

You need to decide when you are going to gather information. Does your service provide one-off assistance, or time-limited assistance? If yes to either of these, it might be best to just record the clients' circumstances when they finish using your service.

If you work with clients for longer you may need to identify where they stand in relation to achievement of their goals when you start work with them and then again when they stop using your service or program.

If your work is intensive, or ongoing, it would be useful to record progress towards achieving clients’ goals at periodic case reviews.

How do we measure it?

To measure the achievement of client goals you need some way of recording information about an individual’s progress while they are using your service.

Whatever method you use, it needs to be reliable, consistent and comparable.

There are different ways to measure progress towards goals. You could use a tool, often called a 'scale' or 'instrument', which will measure your clients’ changes in numbers. If you don’t want to quantify this work you can use a client's story to create a case study. (But remember that funders really want measurable information.)

DSS has created a tool to measure progress towards achieving client goals that you might find useful. This is a ratings scale called ‘the DSS Client Goal SCORE’.

It looks like this:

Rating = 1

Rating = 2

Rating = 3

Rating = 4

Rating = 5

Significant negative impacts on client’s circumstances

Moderate negative impacts on client’s circumstances

Progress towards improving impacts on client’s circumstances

Short-term positive impacts on client’s circumstances

Ongoing positive impacts on client’s circumstances

No progress in achieving this outcome

 

Outcome fully achieved

 
 

When this tool is used to measure outcomes in one of the DSS goal areas mentioned in Step 1, it starts to look like the table below. (Here we’re using the example of clients making progress towards achieving their goals of increasing their knowledge and access to information.)

A tool to measure clients’ progress towards achieving their goals to increase their knowledge and access to information

Rating = 1

Rating = 2

Rating = 3

Rating = 4

Rating = 5

 

No progress in achieving knowledge goals

 

Limited progress in achieving knowledge goals but emerging engagement

 

Limited progress in achieving knowledge goals but strong engagement

 

Moderate progress in achieving knowledge goals

 

Full achievement of knowledge goals

 

I need something more specific:

If you think you need something purpose-built for your service or program you might need to create your own tool from scratch. If that’s the case, see How to create and use ratings scales.

I want to use clients’ stories:

If that’s the case, see How to do a semi-structured interview or How to plan and run a focus group.