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Introduction to Outcome & Asset Approaches

Our Outcome-Asset Impact Model (O-AIM), which increases local capacity for building  positive change, merges outcome and asset approaches as well as integrates a number of other concepts and theories. We provide a full discussion of the O-AIM in the next section. This section provides:

  1. a basic introduction to outcomes and assets
  2. and how they have been used traditionally in the human services.


The term “outcome” is generally used to describe a desired result. In human services, the term is used to describe the changes that are expected to occur as a result of an  intervention. Outcomes are defined in advance of the intervention. They drive the change process and are the criteria for evaluating its effectiveness.


Many neighborhood organizations are concerned about the increase in crime rates. Traditionally, the desirable long-range impact (or outcome) of their work would be a crime-free community. Based on this objective, they might come up with ways to reduce the number of crimes committed in the community, such as increasing policing or instituting neighborhood watch programs.

Evaluating Outcomes

Historically, when people have tried to measure results they have tended to focus on such things as units of services provided or numbers of clients served. However, these measures do not inform us about actual results for the community. For example, if a community provides counseling to a high number of delinquents, simply tallying the number of counseling sessions does not provide direct evidence that counseling decreases delinquent behavior.

Outcome evaluations evolved as funders increasingly began to demand evaluation data as evidence of success of program outcomes. In outcome approaches, outcome statements are created that define the changes that are intended to result from an intervention. In turn these statements establish the basis for the evaluation.


An important feature of outcome approaches is the development of measurable indicators (based on the outcome statements) used to evaluate the success of an intervention, and determine whether the outcomes are attained.



  1. Outcome Statement:

    “People feel safe in their neighborhood.”

    How It Can Be Measured:

    A survey can be used to examine several indicators of how safe people feel in their neighborhood.

  2. Outcome Statement:

    “People respect and follow the law.”

    How It Can Be Measured:

    Interviews can reveal people’s attitudes and practices regarding the law.

  3. Outcome Statement:

    “People want lower crime rates in their neighborhoods.”

    How It Can Be Measured:

    Crime statistics can show whether crime rates are lowered as a result of an intervention.


Assets are strengths (such as positive relationships) and resources (such as skills and opportunities) that promote  health and self-sufficiency. Asset approaches stress that for positive change to occur we must identify and build upon existing assets (of people and organizations) as a way of moving from a problem or deficit focus to an asset focus. This approach uses existing strengths to create opportunities and environments where assets can be further enhanced and developed. Below is an example of an asset orientation.


If a group of neighborhood adolescents have demonstrated an inclination toward art, perhaps even through the delinquent behavior of graffiti, then the community may organize a mural painting project that includes guidance by well-known local artists and an exhibit of the adolescents’ artwork. Thus the kids’ strength, i.e., their artistic ability, creates an opportunity for artistic development that directs their behavior in a positive direction, providing them a way to give back to the community.

Historically, in the effort to create healthy and safe communities, people have tried to bring about positive results by concentrating on the immediate problems at hand. New understandings of our world and the dynamics of change have now taught us to focus on both healthy and unhealthy conditions (both strengths and problems) because the conditions that create problems are not the same as those that create health.


Eliminating spousal abuse is imperative, but just simply stopping the abuse does not by itself create a healthy and thriving family. Healthy families must also have positive assets such as loving, supportive relationships.

It is not the absence of problems that creates health; rather, it is the presence of positive assets. People do not solve problems solely by understanding how and why problems evolve. Instead of just asking, “Why are so many things going wrong?” we also need to ask, “When things go right, what happened and how can we do more of that?”

An asset orientation promotes a shift in thinking...

...FROM the traditional, problem-oriented DEFICIT APPROACH

“How do we fix this problem?”

“Other people need to fix this.”

“It’s us versus them.”

“I’m working by myself.”

“Problems continue.”

TO a strength-based ASSET APPROACH

“How can we create more health?”

“What can I do differently?”

“We are all in this together.”

“I’m working with others in a common context.”

“We identify the journey from problems to health.”

This is a picture of a round table business meeting

NEXT PAGE> Go to the next section to see how outcome and asset approaches have been merged to create our Outcome-Asset Impact Model (O-AIM)