Problem, Solution, Outcome
Outputs and Outcomes:
Getting Started — The Plan
- Each project starts with a problem statement: what problem are you trying to solve, either for or in your community? Why is it important? What needs improving?
- Once the problem is identified (or vision stated), how will the the use of network technology be a solution? How will your solution be an improvement over other solutions?
- Next, what do you think will happen if your project is successful? How will you know that it is successful? How will you know that your objectives have been accomplished?
Project planning should build from the problem, solution, outcome triad — not around the review criteria.
These issues to be considered:
TOP is seeking applications that address pressing social problems through the applications of network technologies. What is the purpose of the proposed project? To what degree does your project target the needs of underserved communities and populations? Is your project designed to address/redress the problems associated with the circumstances and levels of distress that such populations encounter, e.g., high unemployment, inadequate health services, limited access to health care, high crime rate?
- Needs Assessment
- End Users
Have you attempted to articulate the needs of the community/population that the project is intended to serve? Or, have they been active participants in the planning?
Note about Partners: (1) According to the results of our survey, partners engaged in the planning process are more likely to provide expertise or intellectual capital and in-kind or reduced rates for service to a project. (2) TOP encourages establishing partnerships that will complement talents and resources and actively contribute to the planning implementation, and long-term sustainability of a project. (3) Although private sector organizations are not eligible to receive funds, they serve as very important partners.
In sum, what are you proposing, for whom, and why? While we do not want to encourage you to write to the criteria, the importance that we place on planning is evidenced in the following areas of the review criteria: Project Purpose, Diffusion Potential, Community Involvement, Reducing Disparities.
You should discuss how network technology and information resources will provide a realistic and effective mechanism for addressing the problem(s) defined.
Inputs: What resources will be required to implement the project, to achieve the projectís objectives. Resources include: capital, staffing, networking technologies, funds (Federal dollars required, overhead, in-kind contributions, matching funds), physical plant, goods and services.
Activities: What are the tasks and milestones that operationalize your goals and objectives. What is the intervention being proposed. As you plan out your activities and tasks, you are in fact developing materials that will become a good timeline and a good budget narrative.
The project inputs are critical data for evaluation. Many of the program activities will be basis for implementation and project progress. Progress in achieving project activities provides feedback to project managers and the community with respect to whether or not a project is realistic in its objectives, whether not its resources are sufficient or appropriate.
Outputs and Outcomes:
Outputs: These are not to be confounded with Outcomes. Outputs are products of the activities. Some examples include networking six senior citizen centers, establishing shared databases at eight clinics, providing training to 300 police officers. While quantitative and measurable, they are not outcomes.
Outcomes: These are the consequences of the project activities/intervention. Outcomes are also the benefits of the project to its clients, end users, beneficiaries. What are the results that emerge from program participation? In defining an outcome, it is important to think along two dimensions: an indicator (evidence) for the outcome and a target for success. Some examples include: reducing time spent commuting to hospitals and other health centers by 50 percent; increasing the number of students taking calculus by 60 percent; and reducing the time-to-site for fire fighters by 35 percent.
As you think about outcomes, you are developing the research questions for the evaluation. As you review your outcomes in relation to activities and milestones, you are monitoring your project.
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