Clinks website

supporting voluntary organisations that work with offenders and their families

        About Clinks button

Demonstrating outcomes

Attributing outcomes

Measuring outcomes and testing whether they can be attributed to your work is a key challenge in evaluation. For example how do you know that your service has made a difference to reoffending? How can services define and identify their own contribution or value alongside other services? How can you identify long term impact? How can you be sure that outcomes achieved would not have happened anyway? There is no easy answer to these questions but some of the things below may help.

Comparison group approaches

The strongest way to attribute impact is to compare outcomes for your service users to similar groups of people who do not receive the service (or receive something else). This enables us to estimate what is known as the "counterfactual". This guide introduces the different types of studies which take this approach and includes case studies of organisations that have used them. It will help you think about your own opportunities to conduct this type of research. The document is best suited to organisations that are already assessing their impact and want to explore more robust methods.

Download A guide to using comparison group approaches

Theory of change

A theory of change is a description of how a service or project is intended to work. It is a widely used approach, increasingly required by funders ands should always be the first step in any evaluation process.

Working on a Theory of Change helps you to demonstrate outcomes because it guides you to the evidence you need to collect to assess whether a projects has made a difference. This guide introduces you to theories of change, provides examples and gives detailed advice on how to develop your own.

Download guide to developing a theory of change (updated May 2014) 

Intermediate outcomes

A key aspect of a Theory of Change is to have a good understanding of intermediate outcomes, which are the preliminary or short-term outcomes your service aims to achieve to support long term desistance from crime.  To help you think about your own intermediate outcomes, the National Offender Management Service have outlined their understanding in their Commissioning Intentions and Needs and Evidence Tables documents.

Example theories of change

NPC have worked with a range of organisations to help them develop theories of change. The examples provided below cover a range of services from mentoring, to housing and family support. They also cover innovative practices that have been difficult to monitor and assess, especially when they are provided on a small scale.  The HorseCourse theory of change case study is the most in-depth example of this, which includes a full literature review and a ‘Contribution Analysis’ of the data they have collected so far.

Ministry of Justice Data Lab

The Justice Data Lab has been established to help organisations working with offenders  to access re-offending data for their service users alongside a matched control group.

Download our short guide to the Data Lab here; which includes background information and what you need to do to use it. This guide was updated in November 2015 to reflect changes made to the Justice Datalab service.

Download our frequently asked questions about the Data Lab here. The questions have been collated by Clinks with answers from the Ministry of Justice.

Clinks and NPC held a two part event on the 12th June covering first a practical overview of the JusticeDataLab and how it can be used; followed by a panel session discussing the value of the Justice Data Lab and what we've learnt one year on. Read the storify from the event

A new focus on measuring outcomes

This 2010 Clinks discussion paper highlights key issues affecting outcome measurement in the voluntary sector. It raises considerations for smaller organisations, and provides examples of organisations in the Criminal Justice System (CJS) that have been successful in monitoring their outcomes.


Would the Justice Data Lab help your organisation or your members? 

The Ministry of Justice Data Lab team are available to come and visit you to tell you about the Justice Data Lab and how you might be able to use it. If there is a local network meeting or event you think it would be helpful for us to talk at, then do get in contact with the team to arrange a date!
What is the Justice Data Lab?
The Justice Data Lab supports organisations working to rehabilitate offenders at a local level through easier access to high-quality re-offending data. This includes an aggregate re-offending rate specific to the group of offenders your organisation has worked with, compared to that of a matched control group of offenders with similar characteristics. 
What are the benefits?
The service is free to use. Organisations receive information on the re-offending rate and frequency of re-offending of the cohort they’ve worked with, and the same information for a comparison group of individuals with very similar characteristics. 
This paves the way for organisations to understand more about the individuals they’ve worked with, and evaluate their impact on reducing re-offending.  
So far, the Justice Data Lab has worked with over 30 organisations and published over a hundred assessments of services delivered to offenders. The types of services that have been looked at have been varied – from education, arts, mentoring, accommodation or employment support in a community setting. 
Get in touch
The Justice Data Lab has capacity to take on more requests to support organisations to better understand the impact of their work with offenders.
If you would like the team to come and talk about how this might benefit your organisation or your network’s members please email the team at or call us on 0203 334 4396

Add comment

Log in or register to post comments