Outcomes Framework for Youth Work

20 March 2012 — 1 Comment

The Young Foundation, part of the Catalyst consortium has published the final draft of their ‘Outcomes Framework for Young People’s Services‘ and are looking for feedback. Could this be a useful tool for your work with young people?

The last 10 years of government policy has pushed towards targeted outcomes in work with young people, but measuring the right outcomes has been problematic simply because it’s hard to capture the personal ‘soft’ changes that occur in young people as a result of our work. It was the focus of my undergraduate dissertation and last year the youth sector was criticised by the education select committee for not being able to show evidence of the difference we make. As a result of Department for Education funding, the Catalyst consortium (a partnership of the National Youth Agency, National Council for Voluntary Youth Services, the Social Enterprise Coalition and the Young Foundation) have now created the Outcomes Framework for Young People’s Services.

Essentially, it is a comprehensive document (based on strong evidence from a range of research and literature) that helps understand and measure the connections between intrinsic personal and social development outcomes and longer-term extrinsic outcomes. It uses this relationship to create the outcomes model below (click to enlarge):

Workers can use the framework to identify the sort of outcomes they should be measuring in their work, and then use the matrix of tools to find the best way to actually measure it. The matrix is basically a catalogue of third party tools and resources designed to capture evidence on personal and social development. Many of the tools are well known (such as Soul Record or Outcomes Stars) while some are more obscure, but they have all been assessed and compared with key criteria so you can identify the ones that best fit your work.

The full framework process is shown in the diagram below (click to enlarge), and explained in detail within the document.

The framework as a whole may be too in-depth for most practitioners doing face to face work, but it should be a very useful tool for managers and organisations that need to show the difference they make. And that is the point. I imagine as a result of this work that we will start seeing more funders looking for useful evidence of social development in young people to justify the money they invest in organisations and projects.

The version available on The Young Foundation site is a final draft and they are looking for feedback to shape the final document (due in April). The writers are particularly interested to hear responses to the following questions:

  • Do the key messages of the Framework resonate with you?
  • Who do you feel would be the key audience for the framework? (Commissioners, providers, managers?) Who would you recommend reads it?
  • How do you think the framework might be used?
  • Does the approach set out in the Framework represent a significant change to your current way of working? In what way?
  • What do you feel are the main opportunities and challenges of such an approach?
  • Do you feel clear about the practical steps in taking forward the approach set out in the Framework?
  • Do you feel that you or your service would benefit from (additional) support around impact and outcomes? What types(s) of support is/are needed?
  • What else is needed to make the Framework ‘useful’, going forward?

View and download the Outcomes Framework for Young People’s Services here. You should email any feedback to Bethia McNeil by March 31st 2012.

What are your thoughts on this? Do we need to prove what we do or is it a waste of time?


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I am a qualified youth worker, writer and consultant based in Littlehampton, UK. I've worked in the voluntary youth sector for over 12 years, am married to Kirsty and we have two daughters named Hope and Eloise. Check out 'Journeying Together: Growing Youth Work and Youth Workers in Local Communities' and read my opening chapter.

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