Coming around to the outcomes approach - Kyle McGill

  • by KyleMcGill

    Thursday, 4 December, 2014 - 09:32

So first and foremost, I have always had it instilled that it's all about the process and not about the outcome, this being from a youth work background. A lot of my values and practice were based round this and I thought it was the bee's knee for many a year.

Within the last few years, I've found myself being asked to look at an outcomes approach as apposed to the aforementioned, all about the process. I was hesitant at first to even entertain the idea, however I eventually realised both are part and parcel of each other, I've found it's not about changing your practice, it about changing your approach, two commonly misinterpreted ideas. 

Changing your approach from 'we will do this piece of work and take the outcomes as we get them' to 'what do we want these people to achieve, what difference are we going to make'. A good practitioner has done this innately for many a year often with out realising, the difference is that you are setting outcomes to focus your work.

For example,

  • 15 young people involved with the project
  • 10 young people to have an arts award
  • All young people to try an instrument 
  • 8 to have started an instrument and played that instrument for 6 weeks
  • 2 performances 

Now the thing is, strive for the outcomes, but don't let it hinder the work you are doing, the fantastic thing about working with Youth Music is that they are happy to help; they are flexible. From my understanding, if you only do one performance and work with 14 young people but gain 12 arts award and have a young person grade on a instrument, that is awesome! We just need to explain why we only had one performance and 14 YP and get the bells and whistles out for what you did well! All it is, is justifying why things happened and what you have learned from it, we all are learning and as humans, we aren't perfect - if there was a perfect person, I'm sure I wouldn't like to meet them!

I recently went on the youth music outcomes training delivered by Dougie Lonie (whose an awesome guy by the way!) which was about the outcomes approach as a whole, from the need of your project through the 5 stages to evaluating the project. (I won't list them all, there is plenty of good information on the youth music site and in the booklet I later mentioned). The day was very insightful, and the one thing that leapt out to me was the different language that people use, I'm not saying Dougie was speaking ancient Hebrew and I was speaking Delboy's french, it's the difference of what funders and an organisational level uses as terminology and what practitioners use on the ground.

For example, little Jonny did some inappropriate improv rap about Indian sitar playing, but by the end of the session and some targeted work about culture, the rap what about a more encompassing view of people's differences. This is showing technical skill with an improv rap with the knowledge and a broader understanding of music culture, also having a different musical interpretation and understanding the communication of the music. 

In my opinion, people should embrace the outcomes approach and be open and listen to the way different organisations are speaking, and relates that to your practice, page 17 and onwards of youth music's booklet 'taking and an outcomes approach' (v1.0 July 2014) helps with this. But most importantly, get out there and carry on with the great work you are doing!

Kyle McGill

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Sophie Appleby's picture

I'm really glad you found the outcomes training useful Kyle! The phrase "It's not about changing your practice, it's about changing your approach" is very interesting.

Here's the link to Youth Music's Taking an outcomes approach guidance:

KyleMcGill's picture

Fantastic, thank you! An electronic document will be most hand as a back up :)

I ment the phrase to illustrate the outcomes approach is just a different way of thinking, and overall the process and outcome are one of each other. I hope that came across!

Sophie Appleby's picture

yes, it definitely did, that's a great way of explaining it! :)

Dougie Lonie's picture

Thanks for sharing Kyle. I'm glad we got across that it absolutely is about process too. The main thing is for project teams to get together and discuss why and how different things are happening, and where possible to have these discussions based on data and methods appropriate to the project and young people. It's all about an enquiring mind and making time to enquire - something we're all often guilty of not making time for. I collected some of my own thoughts on the sessions here too...