Outcomes hierarchy

Outcomes Chain, Theory of Change (TOC), Results Chain, Impact Pathways

An outcomes hierarchy shows all the outcomes (from short-term to longer-term) required to bring about the ultimate goal of an intervention.  

Unlike results chains, it does not show the activities linked to these outcomes.


Flow chart starts at the bottom with apples delivered to schools and then shows 3 different paths to arrive at the desired outcome of improved health
An outcomes hierarchy for 'an apple a day' program showing possible different causal paths


Advice for choosing this method

This method is particularly appropriate if the activities don't just occur at the beginning of the outcomes chain, but at different stages along it.

Advice for using this method

  • An outcomes chain is best drawn up at the start of a programme, and concurrent to the design of the ‘logframe’ if one is being used. It will help you better understand the way your outcomes interact and the dependencies between them, as well as to set realistic timeframes to measure progress.
  • The development of an outcomes chain also offers a good opportunity to engage your program’s stakeholders in a discussion about the program. Stakeholders might include program staff, clients/service recipients, partners, funders, board members, community representatives, and volunteers.
  • Ensure that once the outcomes chain is written it doesn’t just ‘sit on a shelf’ but is frequently reviewed and referred to during project implementation, performance measurement and evaluation.


Funnell, S. and Rogers, P. (2011) Purposeful program Theory: Effective Use of Theories of Change and Logic Models San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

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