Outcome Harvesting Methods Memo

The Outcome Harvesting Methods Memo is the first in a series of products intended to provide guidance for professionals of all levels to implement stronger CLAME practices. Headlight’s free Methods Memos offer detailed how-to guidance, making best practices more accessible so that we can all uphold and contextualize the standards that lead to rigorous evidence for decision-making.

Outcome Harvesting is an evaluation method developed by Ricardo Wilson-Grau and colleagues to help identify, verify, substantiate, and make sense of outcomes that may be otherwise unclear or unidentified (Wilson-Grau, R. and Britt, H., 2012). Since many of the social problems practitioners are working on require input from multiple stakeholders and actors, this method leverages actors’ knowledge of each other and their work to uncover and validate what the work has led to, who has contributed, and what has been achieved. This resource’s goal is to provide evaluators practical guidance for implementing the Outcome Harvesting evaluation method, as well as the Emergent iteration of the method. Its contents may also be relevant to organizations who are looking to establish and improve rapid feedback loops to better understand complex strategies or interventions and articulate any resulting outcomes. 

The Outcome Harvesting Methods Memo is organized as use-focused modules and starts with a brief introduction to refresh readers on what Outcome Harvesting is, why it might be useful for evaluators, and when it is appropriate to use this method. From there, the memo dives into a module on what version of Outcome Harvesting an evaluator should use since Retrospective and Emergent Outcome Harvesting enable different possibilities for learning and use of findings. This subsection also includes a history of the method and comparison tables so that practitioners can make an informed decision about which version to pursue. 

Once readers have selected their type of Outcome Harvesting, the next two modules dive into the step-by-step of how to implement both Retrospective and Emergent Outcome Harvesting. Module five presents Headlight’s top five recommended skills and topical areas of expertise for contracting an evaluator to conduct an Outcome Harvesting effort, that way, organizations and practitioners can ensure that they are continuing to build capacities and select those with the skills needed for implementation. The final three modules (six, seven, and eight) then get into more nuance for top tips for practitioners, implementation case study examples from Headlight’s recent work, and frequently asked questions that we have been asked by other evaluators about Outcome Harvesting that we thought would be helpful to share with others too. Finally, we have annexed four use-focused tools: an Outcome Description Template, an Outcome Identification–Sample Primary Interview Protocol, a Sample Substantiation–Secondary and Tertiary Interview Protocol, and an Evaluator Terms of Reference Outline. 

Headlight has implemented Outcome Harvesting with a variety of clients over the past year and half, including GSMA, USAID’s Digital Financial Services Team, and USAID/Ethiopia. While some of these evaluative efforts are still underway, we hope that this practical guidance inspires other practitioners to consider this method where appropriate for better evaluation and learning for our fields. 

View the Headlight Consulting Outcome Harvesting Methods Memo