You probably have a good idea about what you want to do and why you want to do it. Most projects start off trying to solve a problem.
One of the first steps in taking an outcomes approach is to write down the problem (or issue). This is the first step to identify why your project is needed. Try to be clear. There may be many reasons why your project is needed, but try to stick to the main ones that you think are most important and you want to work on.
Working through why your project is needed will others will help you focus on what is most important. If you write this down and agree a few short sentences to describe why your project is needed, you will be able to make sure everyone involved understands the problem you are trying to solve.
Examples of overall need
- there is lots of litter and dog mess around the estate
- young people are hanging around the shops and intimidating people
- families with children with a disability are isolated
Evidence of Need
How do you know the need exists? Before moving forward, you will have to provide some evidence. The amount of evidence you need often depends on the size of your project. Evidence can come from different places, such as:
- talking to local people
- discussing the issue with those most likely to be affected
- local research such as a survey of users of a service or a community
- information about the people or community most likely to be affected. For example, the number of people that are unemployed or the number of children with a disability.
You will almost certainly have to spend some time on research. In general, the time you spend will be related to the size of your project. In this Toolkit we focus on smaller community projects. For larger organisations and projects, you will need to know more about local, regional or national strategies and how your project fits with them and look at what evidence they include.
People will not share the same views all of the time. Some groups may have very different opinions, for example, young people usually want different things to older people. Therefore you need to think carefully about what you need to find out from whom. You might need to make an extra effort to get the views of people who spend more time at home, are at work or might not mix as much as others in the community.
Example: Evidence of needs experienced by families with children with disabilities
There are 80 families with children with disabilities recorded in the area your project covers. You have asked 20 of the parents and asked them about their experiences. Of the 20, 16 (or 80 per cent) said that they felt isolated. This suggests that of the 80, about 64 families in the area will also feel isolated. The parents also said that the main reasons were lack of contact with other families with children with a disability and lack of places to go with their children.
Understanding the reasons for the need
There may be a number of possible causes for the need you intend to address. Again, it is important to state which needs you will address and which you will not. It is also worth having clear reasons why. The table on the right gives some examples of problems, reasons and possible solutions.
|Overall problem||Understanding of the reason for the problem
|Possible solution (project)
|Too much litter and dog mess on the estate||Too many people dropping litter||Talk to community groups including adults social clubs & adult education groups and young people in schools and youth clubs|
|Some people find it intimidating when there are groups of young people near the shops||They are not doing anything wrong; there is just a lot of them and they play music. Young people are often seen as nuisance and this can be very damaging for their self-perception. There aren’t many places where they can congregate even though social interaction is a vital part of their development. They need to feel welcome within the community.||Hold an intergenerational event or run an intergeneration project that raises understanding about young people, how they are perceived and how they want to be perceived and how to break down the barriers.|
|Families with disabled children are isolated||There is no place for families to get together||Arrange an event for families and children to get together in the local area|
Get together with other people involved with your project. Write down the need that you have identified, and get everyone to come up with possible answers to the following questions:
- What is the need?
- What is the evidence for it?
- What is causing it?
- Who else should we ask?
Then decide as a group what the main reasons are. This is likely to be the need that your project plans to address. Once you have decided, you need to check with the other people you identified and ask their advice. This is about making links and is an important stepping stone in developing your project. This may help you to find out:
- Why this project has not been tried before.
- Who can help with advice, practical help or funding.
- If there are similar projects that you can work together with.
- If volunteers are willing to help.
- Things to look into further like safety issues.
- If someone is already doing what you want to do.
- If people are aware of the problem.
Thinking about and talking to other projects may help you to find evidence about what is needed and what is likely to work. Similar projects to yours that are already working elsewhere can often give you a lot of good advice.
If you can answer the following questions, you know you are on the right track.
- What need is your project trying to meet?
- Have you all the evidence you want to show that your project is needed?
- What people and how many of them will benefit from your project?
- Will your project help those people most in need?
- How will they benefit?
- Is your project the best way to meet the need you identified?
Once you understand the need you want to address, you can start work on being clear about the difference that you want to make, and then how you are going to do it.