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Outcome Mapping Practitioner Guide

The 5 key assumptions of Outcome Mapping

After 10 years of Outcome Mapping, OM practitioners gathered during the OM Lab in Beirut 2012 and defined the following 5 key assumptions underpinning Outcome Mapping

Author: Steff Deprez

Published: Sunday 7 September 2014

The 5 key assumptions of Outcome Mapping (see OM Lab Report Beirut, 2012)

Outcome Mapping is based on 5 key assumptions about development and humanitarian interventions. Seeing the world this way is essential to OM but not exclusive to it. Other approaches could well incorporate the same assumptions. 

1. Sustainable ecosystems and human wellbeing depend on human behaviour. The success of introduced changes, be they infrastructural, organizational, policy, regulatory or technological, will depend of the behaviours of the people they touch. People in their social and individual roles will need to: inspect and maintain roads and bridges; monitor and respond to water quality; respect and comply with laws; wash their own and their children’s hands; adopt healthy and ecologically safe agronomic practices; or demand their rights - depending what the intervention is focused on. Development always involves establishing patterns of behaviour. 

2. There are limits to the influence that any intervention can expect to exert. Depending on its scope, resources, credibility, context, etc., an intervention can expect to directly influence certain individuals and organizations. Those actors it can bring within its sphere of influence may also be influenced by other actors and forces that may be within or beyond the intervention’s direct influence. In the Mwananchi governance and transparency programme, OM was used as a way of working more systematically and intentionally with civil society and media organisations through a process of systematic identification of the main actors involved in a change process, which ones the project teams had opportunities to directly influence, and then the kinds of behavioural changes involved. 

3. People contribute to their own wellbeing; there are no passive beneficiaries. People’s well being includes agency - the knowledge and power to play a role in creating, maintaining, assessing or adjusting the actions that affect them and ecosystems on which life depends. People who have no influence over the programmes reaching them are not being helped. 

4. Differing, yet equally valid perspectives will always coexist. Actors will interpret things depending on their particular stake in a situation. The ways in which these stakeholders are motivated and act may differ and may not be consistent or supportive of each other. Engaging the relevant actors while recognizing, reconciling or managing their differing impetuses for involvement is a normal part of an intervention. 

5. Ecological, social and economic resilience depend on interrelationships. Sustainable improvements in wellbeing involve influencing interconnected contributions from a variety of political, social and economic actors. The engagement of these actors in appropriate, interconnected patterns of behavior is essential in building the capacity of stakeholders to maintain or adjust their contributions as conditions change, as needs emerge and as the actors themselves evolve. 

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