What Are Outcomes? How Are They Different from Outputs?
Outcomes are the results of a program’s services for its clients or community. They measure changes in clients’ circumstances, conditions and attitudes that result from the program’s work or changes in organizations and institutions directly affecting clients’ lives.
Outcomes are fundamentally different from outputs, which are measures of the amount and type of activities a program conducts and the services it provides. Outputs are things the program produces. A program’s outputs – e.g., the services provided clients – are necessary to achieve benefits for clients, but outputs data can provide no information about what benefits, if any, those services provided clients.
The major types of outcomes data most widely used by legal services providers are financial outcomes and non-financial outcomes. These most typically correspond to or are based on the LSC Case Services Reports (CSR) system “problem code” areas, e.g. consumer, housing, family, employment. And as discussed in more detail here, the data are typically collected only for extended service cases (LSC CSR case closing codes F-L), not for limited services cases (LSC CSR case closing codes A and B).
Some examples of non-financial outcomes include
- evictions prevented or delayed
- foreclosures prevented
- divorces obtained
- domestic violence protective orders obtained
- SSI or other public benefits maintained or obtained
Some examples of financial outcomes include
- the monetary value of benefits obtained, such as the retroactive amount and monthly amounts of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits
- monthly amount of Food Stamp (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP])
- amount of back pay recovered
- the retroactive amount and monthly amounts of child or spousal support.
Other financial outcomes include the value of resources preserved through actions such as bankruptcy protection, stopping debt collections or utility cutoffs, and stopping a wage garnishment.
Outputs are the activities a program conducts and the services it provides to address the needs of its client community. Primary examples of outputs data include:
- The numbers of persons served
- LSC CSR data regarding the type and levels of services provided in different substantive law areas
- LSC “other services” (“matters”) data such as:
- Pro se clinics conducted and persons participating in the clinics
- Community education sessions conducted and persons participating in those sessions
- Pro se and informational materials posted on the program and/or statewide website and
- Web analytics or similar data sources regarding page hits and document downloads
- Research analyses produced
- Press releases distributed and op-eds and other materials published by program staff