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How to assess the true impact of tenant and community involvement: An eight step guide (05 Dec 07)

These priceless tips from a professional evaluator guide you through the maze

Have you been asked to design and conduct an impact assessment (IA) of tenant or community involvement?

You may or may not be aware, but just this month (August 2007), the Housing Corporation published its latest advice on the topic. For all Registered Social Landlords, it’s essential reading. For others who are not in housing but working in the community, it’s still highly relevant because all the principles are the same.

Just 19-pages long, Measuring Change: Involvement Impact Assessments gives you general advice which is mostly well-written and fits in well with current thinking about programme evaluation.

If you are doing your first IA, though, it may not be specific enough to lead you through the tasks that lie ahead. With that in mind, here are eight practical steps that can help you complete an IA that is useful for improving services and for reporting to the Housing Corporation and other similar audiences.

The steps, designed by a professional evaluator, are geared to non-researchers working in a housing association or in the community.

Step 1: Read the Housing Corporation’s guidance document

Essentially the Guide says you and your association can not just measure your activities (what you do to boost tenant involvement) or even your outputs (how hard you’re working). Now you must also pay close attention to outcomes – what the Guide calls “changes that residents and communities aspire to”.

This emphasis on outcomes is now worldwide, and it is variously called result-based management, managing for results, or outcome management. In any event, you and your colleagues must realize that, without doubt, a focus on outcomes will be a part of your management operations from this moment on.

The Guide has other important messages. Key stakeholders must be involved throughout the IA; some outcomes must be achieved before others; unexpected outcomes sometimes occur; a good IA incorporates both quantity (numbers) and quality (words) - and that you must ask how much your organisation’s efforts contributed to the positive outcomes.

For these and other reasons, the Guide deserves not just a cursory read, but careful study. You can download it here>>

Step 2: Learn the differences among inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes

These terms may be jargon to you, but they are easy to learn and essential to designing and assessing your efforts at tenant or community involvement. Figure 1 below shows you some common definitions.

Step 3: Develop a simple logic model of your tenant involvement and community efforts

“Logic model” is more jargon, but it is becoming enormously common around the world, and you simply must know what it means. A logic model is a visual display, on one page, showing very clearly what resources your program has (inputs), what you do with those inputs (activities), how much you accomplish (outputs), and most importantly, what changes you achieve as a result of your activities (outcomes).

A good logic model also shows how the different outcomes relate to each other -- which are achieved first, which next, and so on all the way to the ultimate outcome

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