Outcomes Harvesting is one of many M&E methodologies. It is a powerful method as it really allows evaluators and researchers to embed meaning in their data, which can truly tell a story which includes not only repeated points of data (indicators) which show an outcome target was achieved but allows for an explanation of change due to key events. It effectively asks questions around what change took place and who was involved. Outcomes harvesting enables practitioners to identify changes which have taken place as a result of a developmental intervention, and then to analyse and describe this change. The methodology involves gathering evidence on change which has taken place, and then to explore the forces and actions which gave rise to that change. Outcomes harvesting is a great approach where single events may have contributed to significant changes, or where change is not linear, and the causes of change are not clearly defined or intentional.
When to Use Outcomes Harvesting
Outcomes Harvesting can be used to evaluate complex projects where there is a lot of powerful data, but this was not collected in line with a clear analytic strategy. Use Outcomes Harvesting where it is clear that the participation of specific role players and key events created marked and measurable change in outcomes. Where there never was a plan, or where reality unfolded in a wholly unexpected way (as it is well known to do), outcomes harvesting may be the method best suited to your work.
How does Outcomes Harvesting differ from Outcomes Mapping?
It is easy to link these two methods, and indeed much of the methodology and modes of thinking about the problem are similar. There is really one key difference. Outcomes Mapping will be used when you are planning or designing a project and throughout implementation, whereas outcomes harvesting will usually take place retrospectively, using information which is already there, digitally, on paper or in pictures, or in the memories of key stakeholders.