My Canadian friends insist this is not true, but I am convinced that Canadians are by nature just a little bit better than us. After all, they gave us the great Bruce Cockburn. And Loverboy. Another case in point is Outcome Mapping (OM).
The Bible of OM was authored by Sarah Earl, Fred Carden, and Terry Smutyl in 2001. OM itself was developed by Canada’s International Research and Development Centre (IRDC) to address perceived shortcomings of Logical Framework Analysis (LFA). As you will discover, the Program Monitoring and Evaluation community (PM&E, of course) has never met an acronym with which it has not fallen in love.
If you have dealt with a big foundation, especially one that has a hand in international human development, then you have undoubtedly encountered LFA-speak and its obsession with the “ballistic” term impact. People who obsess themselves with impact assessment are fundamentally skeptics. They wish the social world was more like the world of the natural sciences, a world in which we think we can know things for certain. They lament that we rarely have discrete, measurable, predictable and straightforward relationships between the programs we support through our philanthropy and the world we wish were true. OM starts from a different place, where the fact that human beings are not machines is to be celebrated. OM sees development as characterised by long-term, open problems, and accepts that ‘social change’ is really shorthand for many changes in many actors over a long period of time. Acknowledging that there are limits to a program’s influence, OM encourages a focus on the contributions that the actors and organizations with which you work directly can reasonably make not only in the communities they serve but also in the ways in which they go about their work.
For most, fully implementing an OM program is too expensive and probably overkill. But, the principles on which OM is built are worth appreciating and engaging with. The good folks at the Outcome Mapping Learning Community (OMLC), a registered not-for-profit organization in Belgium, have made a trove of resources available to us. This is a rabbit hole down which you will be rewarded for diving.