Part 3: Reporting on impacts and the contribution to outcomes

Although outcomes and impacts are not terms used in the accounting standard or legislation, public organisations frequently use them in their performance reporting to describe the immediate and longer-term benefits they intend to achieve through their services.

It can be challenging for public organisations to meaningfully report progress against their strategic intentions, particularly on their impact and their contribution to outcomes.

For many, outcomes are the end result of a long causal chain of interventions, are likely to be influenced by many other factors, and may take years to achieve. Public organisations will often need to focus their reporting on the immediate impacts, which they have a greater ability to influence and control through their services.

Multiple public organisations are often working toward the same outcome (e.g. housing affordability). Using an aligned reporting framework across the public organisations allows the public and Parliament to understand how public organisations can effectively work together to achieve better outcomes for New Zealanders. When public organisations have developed a shared outcomes framework, it is important that reporting shows the particular role a public organisation plays in the wider system.

Public organisations should carefully consider how they will assess, monitor, and report the impact and difference they can make through their services and what mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches is appropriate. Performance information should tell a story over time. Trend information is likely to be particularly important in giving a meaningful picture of progress in respect of impacts and outcomes.

Examples of good practice

Our good practice examples are categorised under three themes:

What to avoid and what to aim for

What to avoid What to aim for

Fragmented reporting from public organisations working on shared outcomes.

Aligned reporting on outcomes with different public organisations (where appropriate).

Reporting on outcomes only at a high-level and not explaining the public organisation’s contribution.

Setting out impacts and outcomes when not appropriate or relevant.

Confusing impacts and outcomes with service quality.

Reporting where the public organisation has clearly identified the impact that it intends to achieve in contributing to higher-level outcomes (where appropriate).

Reporting that recognises uncertainties and the reliance on other organisations in achieving, or progressing towards, certain outcomes.

Not having meaningful and appropriate impact and outcome measures.

Constantly changing measures.

Meaningful and appropriate outcome/impact measures.

Consistent reporting over time showing trends where available, but not at the expense of improving the quality of the performance measures.

Partially measuring performance by using a narrow set of measures or only relying on case studies.

Using qualitative/evaluative performance information in a robust way, where appropriate, for the service.