How an outcomes-based approach can work for your organisation

22 Sep 2023 Leeann Kelly    Last updated: 22 Sep 2023

Have you ever wondered how an outcomes-based approach can benefit your organisation? Let's explore it together!

NICVA recently partnered with the Programme for Government Team (PfG)from the Executive Office, to demystify the concept of Outcomes Based Accountability (OBA)™ and discuss how it might work for you.

Missed the workshop? No problem! You can watch the recording on demand and access useful OBA learning resources below. 

What is OBA and why is it of interest?

In the voluntary, community, and social enterprise sectors, our main goal is to create a positive impact on the people, places, and communities we serve. Outcomes Based Accountability (OBA) is an evidence-based tool, created by Mark Friedman, that helps us to identify the actions we can take and measure the difference we make.

We measure our impact on two levels.

OBA measures our impact at two levels, at a population level and at a performance level. Both levels work together to drive positive social change:

  • Population Accountability: This level focuses on improving the overall wellbeing of our broader community or population.  It requires partnership working between organisations and sectors to contribute to long-term societal goals.  Only by working together can achieve significant social change.
  • Performance Accountability: Here, individual organisations are held accountable for specific, measurable targets.  It ensures each organisation effectively contributes to population-level outcomes.   It is a more detailed assessment of programme and service performance. 

How do we know what to do?

To truly make a difference, we must ensure the actions we take as an organisation are the right ones and have the greatest possible impact. OBA provides us with seven useful questions to help us identify the actions we need to take.

Seven Questions to ask!

  1. Who are our beneficiaries? (The people impacted by our work).
  2. How would you know if people are better off because of our actions and how do we measure this?
  3. How would we know if we are delivering our services well and how do we measure this?
  4. How are we doing on these aspects now? Can we establish a baseline to help us track if things are getting better or work in terms of service deliver and impact?
  5. Who are the key people we need to involve?
  6. What does best-practice research and experience tell us- remember low cost and no cost ideas.
  7. What is the Action we propose to take? How do we turn the evidence into action?

By considering these seven questions, we can develop actions grounded in evidence, aiming to make the most impact in the areas where we want to see change.

Further guidance on defining and creating actions is included in the learning resources.

Our impact journey does not end there. We need to continually learn and improve by regularly asking these three questions:

  1. How much did we do?
  2. How well did we do it?
  3. Is anyone better off?

OBA challenges us to keep seeking answers to these questions using various tools and to constantly strive for improvement in our actions.

Telling the story of your impact

To track our performance against the three questions, we use Report Cards. These demonstrate the performance of an action and show how our beneficiaries are better off as a result.

Report Cards also help us identify changes to improve performance or adapt to emerging situations. Including a beneficiary’s journey or story of change can add a more powerful touch to your Report Card.  Access the further information and guidance on creating performance metrics and Report Cards: 

Wondering whether to watch the workshop?  Don’t take our word for it; let the feedback speak for itself.  Here’s a taste of what others are saying:

“My organisation has historically struggled to understand and measure the services we offer and will offer in future. This simple workshop provided me with the tools to build something that will allow us to consider how we review and build services in future.”

“This was by far the best OBA training I have attended.”

“This short online session provides clear advice for how to apply the OBA methodology to ensure your organisation is spending its effort and resources on effective actions that will make a difference to the lives of those individuals and entities that we are targeting.”

“For the first time, after having gone to many impact assessment type training seminars, this one really stuck! Thank you. Quite straightforward and very, very helpful. Can apply it to any circumstance. The report card idea is great. Very clear.”'s picture
by Leeann Kelly

Impact Practice Manager

[email protected]

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