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Adopting Outcome Harvesting: 5 Learnings and Takeaways

20 maart 2020

During my first few weeks as an AMID trainee at CARE Nederland, I heard the term ‘Outcome Harvesting’ being used a lot in association with a big upcoming workshop in February 2020. It was a term I had not heard of before, but I quickly learned it was a way to monitor and evaluate programme implementation by ‘harvesting’ changes or outcomes to which the programme contributed. I was curious to see how this different approach would help us learn what the Every Voice Counts (EVC) programme reaped in its fourth year from all that was sowed from 2016 to 2019.

The EVC team from six countries – Rwanda, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Somalia, and Burundi – came together in an Outcomes Harvesting workshop to jointly analyse and learn from their outcomes.


Here is what I learned:

1. Making a change often involves a lot of actors

Reflecting on outcomes and drawing links between what led to results can help identify who was involved and how they contributed to changes. It becomes evident that oftentimes many different actors or groups can influence a change, which may not have beOH pathways processen planned or expected.

An outcome for EVC in Somalia, for example, was the approval of a Youth Policy in the state of Puntland. This outcome involved no less than three different types of actors: EVC partners (CARE, local partners – MUDAN Youth Network and Wardi Relief and Development Initiatives, and The Hague Academy), local authorities, and civil society organisations (CSOs). The Hague Academy for Local Governance conducted trainings on inclusive governance with CSOs. These CSOs influenced the local authorities to get involved in the trainings and engage in dialogues about the Youth Policy with CSOs. Without all these actors working together, it was certain the Youth Policy would not have been approved.


2. Changes can be positive and negative

Was the programme designed to achieve this outcome? Is it a positive or negative outcome? I saw that it was crucial to think about outcomes as intended or unintended because identifying and understanding the relationship between plans and outcomes can help in designing future programming. It also made us aware of both the positive and negative consequences of outcomes, and plan mitigation measures to counter any negative effects of project interventions.

In Sudan, traditional leaders in a village began allowing women and youth to participate in economic activities in a market after EVC interventions; for instance, women were granted access to sell tea. While this is a positive move for women’s entry into the market space, tea-selling carried negative stigma in Sudanese society and EVC has to monitor whether women might face risk of gender-based violence. This example showed us how even positive intended outcomes could lead to negative unintended outcomes.


3. Achieving change is not a one-way path

Throughout the workshop, it became clear that one change does not always lead directly to another, and sometimes many smaller changes build to higher level or more significant outcomes (e.g. local implementation of 30% women’s quota). We saw this by visualising the pathways of change. Some outcomes seemed to be ‘standalone’, whereas others were well-connected. We were able to see clearly the interconnectedness of outcomes and visualise that a change in one level/actor can trigger a change in another.

Changes in public authorities’ responsiveness to women’s demands increased in 2019 due to two main paths. First, with support from advocacy by EVC, a law went into effect requiring local planning groups to include women. Second, capacity strengthening of local women and women’s groups enabled them to better raise their voice by building coalitions and influencing powerholders. Thus, by having women involved in planning committees and trough spaces for dialogue, public authorities were held more accountable to delivering better services based on needs expressed by women, such as those related to gender-based violence prevention and response.

4. Different countries, different routes

Each country takes a unique path to achieve similar goals – all were working toward strengthening women and youth’s participation and influence in decision-making processes in their contexts. However, their journeys are highly context-specific and adapt to accommodate the differences in each country and region.

For instance, EVC teams in Burundi and Sudan both used radio campaigns focused on gender advocacy, but they targeted different groups for different purposes.

  • In Burundi, radio journalists embarked on a campaign to promote women’s political participation by raising awareness on the upcoming elections. However, barriers persist. For example, married women whose marriages are unregistered are not able to run for elections and, when they do register their marriage, they have to pay for a hefty registration fee. The radio campaigns addressed these issues and eventually led to the removal of the marriage fees, thereby enabling more women to participate in local elections.
  • However, in Sudan, the radio campaigns targeted parents to persuade them that marrying daughters off early is not a religious practice. This led to the principal of a school extending support to the campaign against early marriage and some fathers allowing their daughters to continue their education rather than marry.

These examples show how using the same medium – radio campaigns – for the same goal of gender advocacy can result in significant, diverse outcomes.


5. Contribution to a change can be embedded in a change

Civil society can shape the discourse for women’s voice both at the community and national levels. Across the six EVC countries, CSOs were primary contributors to outcomes for communities and public authorities but did not harvest many outcomes within themselves. Therefore, the teams realised that outcomes for CSOs are often embedded within their contribution towards other outcomes.

For instance, in Rwanda, local authorities started using community scorecards to measure community member’s satisfaction on gender-based violence service delivery. This was due primarily to CSOs engaging in capacity strengthening and community scorecard processes. Despite no outcomes in CSOs being formally captured, it was clear their ability to influence was changed as a result.

I think my biggest learning as someone new to Outcome Harvesting was that all outcomes have a different path, and tracing their journey helps identify the various permutations and combinations of their interactions. The outcomes harvesting process was a learning journey for all the teams. We learnt what worked well and what did not in each country and across the programme, and reflected on what can we do for better programming in the future. It is imperative to be conscious and proactive, tracking changes throughout the year and ensuring no critical change goes unnoticed.

In this final year of EVC, I look forward to continuing to engage in the process through EVC’s end-of-programme evaluation. I am also eager to see how EVC’s outcomes feed into the broader Dialogue and Dissent Partnership of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And personally, I look forward to taking my learnings back to AMID’s module on monitoring and evaluation!


By Fatema Kakal, Policy, Research, and Communications AMID Trainee for EVC


With support by Katie Whipkey and Lori Cajegas
Every Voice Counts is a project of CARE Nederland, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.