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Difference Between Output and Outcome

Different terminologies are often used in research, monitoring and evaluation fields, such as input, output, outcome and even impact. It is important to differentiate these terminologies, as they are widely used in many fields. 


What is an Output?

These are the direct immediate-term results associated with a business project or rather what a business has achieved in the short term. An output results into an outcome. 

Some examples of output are; programs, trainings, and workshops attended for a non-profit company and project design and numbers of highway miles build for a highway construction company. 

Another example regarding project outputs in an HIV and AIDS project would be the number of condoms dispensed and the number of community awareness meetings that were done. 


What is an Outcome?

Outcomes are results that are not seen immediately after the end of the project activity. 

There are measures which can be used to evaluate outcomes. These are efficiency, efficacy, and effectiveness. Efficacy is the potential which a procedure solves a certain problem and is determined during developmental research and also in trials. The efficiency of a process can be measured by comparing with other processes and also by way of cost and benefit analysis. Effectiveness may, however, vary due to the impact of other intervening factors present in the procedure implementation. 

For example, in a water project, the outcome will be the percentage of households that have access to the eater. Another example would a scenario whereby an organization organizes a human rights workshop. In this case, the outcome of the project would be the number of community members who have successfully been able to seek their human rights.  


Similarities between output and outcome

Both describe changes at different levels in the provision of service provision 


Differences between  Output and Outcome

  1. Level of results 

While output is the first level of results associated with a project, the outcome is the second level of results associated with a project. 

  1. Measure of value

While outputs do not address the impact or value of the services, the outcome is reflected by the level of achievement or performance that occurred due to the activities or services provided. 

  1. Mode of assessment in Output and Outcome

Outputs are not an appropriate indicator of effectiveness. An outcome, on the other hand, is an appropriate measure of effectiveness. 

Output vs. Outcome: Comparison Table


Summary of Output vs. Outcome

Both output and impact are terms used to describe changes in goods and services at different levels. While output is the products and services which result from development intervention, outcomes are the short-term effects of an output. 


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  1. Thank you for this explanation.

  2. It’s helpful. Thank you

  3. Pretty good explanation , simple and easy to understand the meanings .Thanks for sharing.

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References :

[0]Rist R., & Kusek j. Ten Steps to a Results-based Monitoring and Evaluation System: A Handbook for Development Practitioners. World Bank Publications, 2004.  https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=AN1_UBu0k1cC&printsec=frontcover&dq=differences+between+output+and+outcome&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjBsJaIsvXeAhVKp4sKHSiJAbgQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

[1]Drucker Peter. Managing for Results: Economic Tasks and Risk-Taking Decisions. Elsevier Publisher, 2016.  https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=BCaTDAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=differences+between+output+and+outcome&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjBsJaIsvXeAhVKp4sKHSiJAbgQ6AEINDAC#v=onepage&q&f=false

[2]Grant H., & Crutchfield L. Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits- J-B US Non-Franchise Leadership Series. John Wiley & Sons Publishers, 2012.  https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=Y34IBngAm1oC&printsec=frontcover&dq=differences+between+output+and+outcome&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjBsJaIsvXeAhVKp4sKHSiJAbgQ6AEIOjAD#v=onepage&q&f=false

[3]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WMF_SPDPP_input_output_outcome_new.png

[4]Image credit: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Flowchart_input_output_symbol.svg

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