Learning together: Why use an outcome-based approach (OBA)

17 Oct 2022 Leeann Kelly    Last updated: 21 Oct 2022

In recent times there has been increasing interest in outcomes-based approaches (OBA), evidenced by the endorsement of OBA in the draft Programme for Government. But what does OBA really mean?  

NICVA co-hosted a workshop with the Programme for Government Team (PfG); from the Executive Office and the Education Authority to de-mystify OBA and discuss its use in practice. 

Do not worry, if you did not get a chance to get to attend the session, you can watch the recording below at your leisure; and access the OBA learning resources provided.

Making an Impact: Why use an Outcomes-based Approach (office.com)

The session explored the three key OBA questions-

  • How much did we do?
  •  How well did we do it?
  • And is anyone better off?

Understanding OBA and its applicability to the sector

Outcome-based accountability (OBA) was developed by American writer Mark Friedman; and it has been adapted by many governments across the world for the identifying the actions we need to take and measure the difference we make.

While the measurement of outcomes is nothing new in the voluntary and community sector, what is new is the increasing focus of Government and others of desire to measure and communicate success in terms of impact on people’s well-being.  There has been no uniformed approach to the implementation of OBA and indeed the associated language has been somewhat off-putting. This session set out to de-mystify some of the language and the applicability of it to support organisations measure their impact. The PfG Team shared a tool that can be used to help organisations make OBA real to them.

The session included a real-life example of OBA in practice which is being co-ordinated by the Education Authority.  They highlighted that for OBA to work in practice, it very much required a collaborative approach between all stakeholders- funder, service providers and service users.  This was essential so everyone was clear about the ultimate end goal of the work, and enabled them to work backwards and agree the appropriate ways to measure and collect the data to answer the three key questions- What did we do? What difference did we make? And is anyone better off? 

What delegates thought of the session:

“I have been on a number of courses a read lots about this subject, but today’s session explained it very well.”

“A very informative session and great opportunity for professional development. Thank you.”

“It has given me a starting point and a better understanding of what OBA is.”

Una Casement, Programme for Government Team, The Executive Office commented:

"We all want to demonstrate the meaningful work we do and to evidence the difference we are making to the people, places, and communities we all care about. We hope participants found  the ‘Making an Impact: Why we use an outcomes-based approach’ information session useful. Thank you to everyone who shared their impact practice with us and to being so open about the barriers they can sometimes face. The session acts as a reminder that we are all doing important work, but we are not doing this important work alone. The more we can learn together, the better we can plan, measure, communicate and grow our social impact.  In doing so, we can bring out the best in our respective organisation and ourselves for the benefit of the people we serve."                                                                                                    

Check out our upcoming impact workshops

Check out the NICVA training page for a range of upcoming free impact workshops; including: ‘Making your mark: Identifying and developing the impact of your group’ (November 2022) and ‘Telling the story of your impact’ (December 2022).

The opinions, views or comments in this article do not necessarily reflect any views or policies of NICVA.
leeann.kelly@nicva.org's picture
by Leeann Kelly

Impact Practice Manager

[email protected]

Share your COVID-19 support service

Organisations providing support to people and communities can share their service information here

> Share your support

Not a NICVA member yet?

Save time, money and energy. Join NICVA and you’ll be connecting in to a strong network of local organisations focused on voluntary and community activity.

Join Us

NICVA now welcomes all small groups for free.

Read more on...