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Measuring Up: Creating an Outcomes Culture in the Ministry of Social Affairs

from "Research in Action", Summer/Fall 2013
21/07/2013

 

The Outcomes Initiative of Israel’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services is a strategic initiative to develop and implement outcomes-oriented management and practice across the entire organization.  The Initiative seeks to improve the effectiveness and quality of care in the social service system by introducing processes of learning and improvement that are supported by ongoing measurement.


The Initiative was generated in response to the concern by then-Director General Nahum Itzkovitz over the lack of outcome data and an over-emphasis on activities being undertaken rather than the achievements of those activities.  The Initiative was launched in 2007 by the Ministry’s Division for Planning, Research and Training, led by Dr. Couty Sabah, in collaboration with MJB and with the support of the Mandel Foundation. 

 

The Initiative began with a “trial and learning” stage, designed to introduce the shared language of outcomes into the everyday work of the Ministry.  The program was implemented across the Ministry’s professional administrative units simultaneously—a decision intended to reinforce an overall organizational culture change.  Subsequently, systems were introduced to measure the outcomes of interventions in programs serving a range of populations. 


A key decision that contributed to the initial success was to use the measurement results to promote ongoing improvement and not as a basis for budgetary allocations. 


The Initiative, described by Sabah as both “innovative and complex” is now entering a new stage in which the Ministry is focusing on population-based outcomes measurement for the ministry’s main target populations.  In this new model, the Ministry is relating a range of outcomes to the range of interventions that the population might receive.  This change will make it possible to measure the Ministry's activities more extensively and meaningfully at a more reasonable cost.


This phase is also emphasizing the point that outcomes measurement should not be developed in a vacuum.  Rather, it should be developed in synergy with other processes that also seek to improve effectiveness, such as external evaluation research, the regulatory system, and training and organizational learning activities.  By integrating different processes, the Ministry hopes to routinize on-going outcomes measurement, creating a base upon which the social services can plan and improve their activities.


MJB’s work with the Ministry gained international exposure at an Experts Meeting on Outcomes Measurement in the Social Services in Brussels last fall. The meeting focused on the Outcomes Initiative, and its relevance to similar international efforts.  There was consensus among the experts that the Initiative was very relevant for other countries facing similar challenges.


In Israel, a national seminar reviewed the accomplishments and laid out plans for the future.  Seminar participants agreed that the Outcomes Initiative has succeeded in three important areas:  in gaining the acceptance of a common language to guide these processes, in enhancing the capacity of the social service system to plan and implement measurement systems, and in creating a new recognition of the importance of outcomes measurement.


Reflecting on the Outcomes Initiative, Sabah said that the cooperation between the Ministry and MJB, ”both in the design of the Initiative and the on-going professional support by Institute staff, was crucial to the successful implementation.”

 

The Experts Meeting on Outcomes Measurement in the Social Services was supported by the Marshall Weinberg Fund for Professional Collaboration and Development.

 

Participants in the Experts Meeting on Outcomes Measurement in the Social Services, held in November in Brussels.

 

 

Additional reading: Measuring Up: JDC’s Global Impact 

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