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Outcome Mapping Practitioner Guide

Outcome Harvesting

An evaluation tool that applies Outcome Mapping principles to identify, verify and formulate outcomes when at the moment of intentional design there was substantial uncertainty about relations of cause and effect.

Author: OMLC Coordinator

Published: Friday 12 September 2014

What is Outcome Harvesting? from Outcome Mapping on Vimeo.

Outcome Harvesting can be used for either monitoring or evaluation of projects, programs or organisations. Depending on the situation, either an external or internal person can be designated to lead the Outcome Harvesting process. To ensure success, the harvester recruits the participation of the change agents actively influencing the outcome – the change in one or more social actor. The user who requires the findings of the harvest is also engaged throughout the process. The process consists of six iterative steps

  1. Design the Outcome Harvest: Harvest users and harvesters identify useable questions to guide the harvest and agree what information is to be collected as the outcome description in addition to the changes in the social actors and how the change agent influenced them.
  2. Review documentation and draft outcome descriptions: Harvesters extract changes in social actors from reports, evaluations, and press releases along with documentation on what the change agents did to contribute to them.
  3. Engage with informants in formulating outcome descriptions:   Harvesters engage directly with the change agent informants to review the outcome descriptions extracted from the files, identify and formulate additional outcomes, and classify them all. Informants will often consult with others inside or outside their organization who are well-informed about outcomes to which they have contributed.
  4. Substantiate: Harvesters obtain the views of one or more independent people knowledgeable about the outcome, or a representative group of outcomes, and how they were achieved, to enhance the validity as well as the credibility of the findings. 
  5. Analyse and interpret: Harvesters organise outcome descriptions through a database in order to make sense of them, analyse and interpret the data and provide evidence-based answers to the useable harvesting questions.
  6. Support use of findings: Harvesters propose points for discussion to harvest users grounded in the evidence-based answers to useable questions. Discussions with users might include how they could make use of findings. The harvesters also wrap up their contribution by accompanying or facilitating the discussion amongst harvest users.


Outcome Harvesting Concepts

Change agent: The individual or organisation that influences an outcome.

Harvest users: The people who require the findings of an Outcome Harvest to make decisions or take action.

Harvesters: People responsible for managing the Outcome Harvest.

Outcome Description: The written formulation of who changed what, when and where, and how it was influenced by a change agent. May include the outcome’s significance, context, and history, amongst other dimensions.

Outcome Harvest: The identification, formulation, analysis and interpretation of outcomes to answer useable questions.

Outcome: Change in the behaviour, relationships, actions, activities, policies or practices of a social actor.

Social actor: Individual, group, community, organisation or institution.

Substantiation: Confirmation of the substance of an Outcome Description by an informant knowledgeable about the outcome but independent of the change agent.

Useful questions: Questions that guide the Outcome Harvest because the answers to them will be put to use by the harvest users.

This nugget was applied in: Globally

Related Practitioner Guide sections:

Associated resources:

Latin America & Carribean Sub-Saharan Africa North Africa & Middle East South Asia South East Asia & Pacific Far-East Asia Eastern Europe & CIS (ex USSR) Western Europe North America & Canada Australasia