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Outcome Mapping

Page history last edited by Alexandra Pittman 11 years, 9 months ago


Sarah Earl, Fred Carden, and Terry Smutylo. 2001. “Outcome Mapping. Building Learning and Reflection Into Development Programs.” International Development Research Centre (IDRC) 


Outcome Mapping recognizes that the promotion of social justice is essentially about changing how people relate to each other and to their environment. Outcome Mapping is different from conventional approaches to evaluation, which assumes a causal relationship between an intervention and lasting changes in the well-being of intended beneficiaries. Outcome Mapping focuses on tracking outcomes that result from changes in behavior, relationships, or activities of stakeholders. Outcomes are not only outlined for direct recipients of an intervention, but also for all actors or groups targeted or potentially influenced, referred to as “boundary partners.” The hallmark of Outcome Mapping is a focus on contribution to change, rather than directly attributing the results to a program’s activities. Outcome Mapping uses three core concepts: outcomes, boundary partners, and progress markers. Typically, progress markers are identified for each boundary partner on a three-point scale ranging from “expect to see, like to see, and love to see.”[1]   




  • Mapping outcomes is a strategic and manageable way to track program outcomes and create annual planning documents. 
  • Outcome Mapping allows for more nuanced identification of spaces for potential program influence, which may allow for a more holistic accounting of different stakeholders’ contributions, needs, and influences, highlighting the broader context in which programs are taking place.
  • A focus on contribution challenges traditional assumptions regarding logical causal chains, which are nearly impossible to validate in evaluation work, yet nevertheless remain the “gold standard”. The Outcome Mapping approach recognizes the complexity of any social change context and its multiple influences, which can stem from political, legal, social, or family spheres, and which variably affect individuals’ lives by contributing or constraining change.
  • The focus on a graduated system of progress markers helps organizations to think strategically about their bottom-line hopes for program outcomes as well as their best-case scenarios. This level of detail can help enhance program planning and strengthen implementation activities, particularly if in the course of outlining outcomes additional activities are found to be necessary to more effectively reach best case scenario goals. 
  • This strategy honors feminist perspectives, which argue that change is not linear and attributable to one specific intervention, but rather is the culmination of multiple interacting factors. Moreover, it offers a straightforward for tracking complex systems of change through its integration of boundary partner and the expanded stakeholder approach. 


Weaknesses (or not designed for): 


  • The focus on progress markers to track advances toward pre-identified outcomes narrows the focus of monitoring and reflection and could mean that we overlook challenges faced in program implementation or unexpected results along the way.
  • The analysis of the context is done by proxy through boundary partners, but broader analyses of the external factors constraining or contributing to change and its interaction with the program are not fully accounted for. 


[1] Sarah Earl, Fred Carden, and Terry Smutylo. 2001. “Outcome Mapping. Building Learning and Reflection Into Development Programs.” IDRC.



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