What is the Community Services Outcomes Tree?

The Community Services Outcomes Tree is a framework for capturing the outcomes individuals experience as a result of community services.


Who Developed the Community Services Outcomes Tree?

The Community Services Outcomes Tree has been developed by the Centre for Social Impact, Swinburne University of Technology, in partnership with Uniting Vic Tas.


Purpose of the Community Services Outcomes Tree

The Community Services Outcomes Tree is designed to help community sector organisations measure the effect they are having on individuals’ lives. Measuring these outcomes can help to guide service design, delivery and improvement, support advocacy and secure funding.

The framework encourages a ‘whole of life’ approach and recognises the way in which life domains interrelate. For example, while your organisation may focus on education it would be worthwhile to consider the impact of your work in other areas of a person’s life such as employment, health, finances etc.

Research shows that the community sector is not well resourced to undertake evaluation, outcomes and impact measurement. We aim to support the sector by providing:

    1. A comprehensive outcomes framework across all community service areas. This will assist services to name and then measure their outcomes.
    2. A set of related data collection questions (2 for each outcome, or domain). This will help services to be able to ask meaningful questions of service users and collect data.
    3. Resources to support data collection such as a survey or question template, which can be downloaded and customised to each service.


Who is the Community Services Outcomes Tree For?

The Community Services Outcomes Tree is designed for the community sector. This includes community service organisations, not-for-profit organisations and social enterprises. The framework can also be used by funders of community services such as governments and philanthropics.


How Was the Community Services Outcomes Tree Developed?

Many outcome frameworks exist across governments, not-for-profits and other community services. Often these frameworks focus on just one domain (e.g. education) rather than a ‘whole-of-life’ approach. Alternatively, these frameworks often focus on population-level outcomes (for example, how many people in a population have certain attributes such as experiencing homelessness).

Our goal was to design an outcomes measurement framework that was relevant and useable by community sector organisations who want to measure outcomes for individuals who use the service or participate in an activity. We are focused on what has changed for these individuals. In designing the Community Services Outcomes Tree we:

  • Conducted an extensive review of government, not-for-profit and academic literature related to outcomes measurement.
  • Carried out consultations with Uniting Vic Tas staff and service users who provided valuable feedback and expertise on service provider and service user realities.

Further information on how the Community Services Outcomes Tree was developed can be found under Resources.

The Community Services Outcomes tree identifies, for the first time, the range of outcome areas that the community services sector aims to contribute to for the individuals who use their services and programs. To capture these outcomes, we have tried to separate out discrete outcomes concepts (for example, separate outcome areas for stable housing and affordable housing). This allows organisations to identify and use the outcomes most relevant to them by collecting outcomes together into their own framework.


The Community Services Outcomes Tree is not


    1. about service quality. The Community Services Outcomes Tree does not capture the concepts associated with the quality of services or activities. These relate to the way the service or activity is delivered, for example being respectful, maintaining confidentiality, having knowledgeable staff.
    2. about community-level outcomes. The Community Services Outcomes Tree does not target outcomes related to change at the community-wide level such as building the capacity of community organisations or employers to be inclusive of people with disability, or building social cohesion in a location.
    3. about societal or structural change. The Community Services Outcomes Tree does not capture outcomes of activities that target whole-of-society or structural change, such as availability of affordable housing. It also does not seek to capture changes at population level, such as changes to attitude, increased healthy behaviours or uptake of energy saving strategies.

On its own, the Community Services Outcomes Tree (and its question sets) is not sufficient as an evaluation approach. It can be used as part of an evaluation framework, and should be combined with data collection on other topics, such as information about what factors in service design and delivery contributed to outcomes.