Outcomes Harvest Learnings

In 2019 the J R McKenzie Trust completed an outcomes harvest of responsive grants from 2013-2018. It found that a considerable funding investment over five years had measurably advanced the Trust’s vision towards creating a socially just and inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand. Together, J R McKenzie ngā kaikokiri had contributed to outcomes that impacted individuals, families, whānau, communities and structural systems. These outcomes centred on reduced disparities in social outcomes, more connected communities, Māori succeeding as Māori, more inclusive decision-making and greater recognition and valuing of diversity. Read the full report here.

One of the most exciting discoveries of the harvest was the realisation that outcomes are becoming more interdependent, in other words, one group’s outcomes often positively influence and are influenced by, outcomes of other groups. For example, the mahi of different kaikokiri who had supported vulnerable children and whānau, addressed inequities and empowered communities to engage with decision-makers had contributed towards several structural systems reforms around alleviating child poverty, creating fairness in consumer lending, and reducing disproportionate rates of Māori imprisonment.

The harvest also showed there is some work to do to improve the capacity of ngā kaikokiri to understand the difference they are making. On the whole, most ngā kaikokiri can speak confidently about their outputs. These include how many people participated, and how many and what types of events took place. There was, however, a lot of variation between groups as to how well they gathered evidence, understood outcomes and reported back, both to their funders and to the communities they serve.

One of the key learnings from the harvest was that ngā kaikokiri who were able to confidently talk about their outcomes didn’t separate out “evaluation” from the rest of their work. Rather, they applied an evaluative lens to everything they did. They constantly observed and asked questions of the people they worked with, like: What’s changed? What differences have you noticed? In yourself? Your whānau? Our community? What else do you need? Do you have any ideas about what else we could be doing? And then, when people answered they simply asked permission to record what they said using audio, video or written notes on their phones and used this to develop databases, tell stories, identify what other data might be useful to help tell their stories of change.

And why is this important? First of all, it helped them look critically at what they were doing, to see what they could have done more of, less of or differently, and helped them ensure they were on track towards their vision. Second, they were able to confidently and succinctly report their outcomes back to their communities and their funders.

We learned a lot from the harvest about what’s working, and how the Trust might assist ngā kaikokiri who would like some help to apply an evaluative lens to their projects. One of the first things we have done is to create a tool to assist groups to plan for, and talk about, outcomes and change. You can find this on our website. We’ve also aligned our application processes to the tool to make applying easier for all involved.

Nadine Metzger

Point & Associates