How to measure community or sector level outcomes
This 'How to' is for organisations funded to do community development or sector capacity building work.
Community development or community capacity building? Or community involvement work?
Community development is often seen as a slightly wider term incorporating the idea of community capacity building (Craig 2005). This 'How to' therefore uses the term ‘community development’ for both community development and community capacity building.
It’s hard to measure the outcomes of community development or sector development work. For example, your project or organisation might be small and it might be nearly impossible to tell what community level outcomes are the result of your work. Even well-funded researchers looking at large-scale community development projects find it challenging to prove cause and effect in terms of a project's outcomes.
You might already have outcomes measures in your contract and will need to be guided by these. If you don’t, as general guidance in the Outcomes Framework, DHHS has focused on three areas in which it would like to see measures of progress. These reflect the measures being asked for by the Australian Government Department of Social Services in its new outcomes measurement framework.
They would like to see evidence of:
- The outcomes for a group of clients or community members participating in your service
The outcomes for organisations that your organisation works with
Changes in community structures and networks that enable them to respond to the needs of targeted clients or communities. Have a look at How to measure changes in client circumstances and How to measure achievement of client goals for more information on this.
Measuring the outcomes for organisations you work with
The outcomes that are hoped for here are that your work will assist other organisations to improve their knowledge, skills or practices so that they can better respond to the needs of targeted individuals or communities. If you are a peak body this would focus on your work with member organisations. If you are running a community development program it might be other locally based organisations.
How you measure whether your work has had an impact depends on what your goals are for the work you do with other organisations. Your work might aim to support capacity building, which means you are working to support improvements in skills and knowledge. Or you might aim to build networks to collaboratively address problems in which case your work might focus on partnership building. Here are some areas you might want to measure change in:
- changes in the knowledge, skills or practices of the organisations you work with
the extent of involvement of partners in planning and implementing joint action to achieve agreed goals
the number or quality of partnerships among supporters and providers of services to your client group
consistent, tangible progress towards goals
the diversity and inclusiveness of community groups
community groups’ capacity to address their own issues and advocate on their own behalf
strengthened individual citizenship skills (eg feeling confident interacting with government, participation in community forums or consultations,)
people’s participation in community events and groups
community groups’ assessment of whether they feel more able to take action to improve the life circumstances of their fellow community members
community groups’ assessment of whether they have achieved the goals they set as a group
community groups’ confidence in making their own decisions
community groups’ knowledge of other supports available. 1
- 1. Craig G 2005 ‘Community capacity-building: Definitions, scope, measurements and critiques’, A paper prepared for the OECD, Prague.