Why the Outcomes Star™ works

Since its original publication in 2006, the Outcomes Star has proved to be enormously popular with service users, keyworkers, managers and commissioners.

And below, we’ve identified ten reasons why the Star’s unique approach has been welcomed by a wide variety of sectors and settings.

1. Because the Outcomes Star believes change is possible

Underpinning the Outcomes Star is a sense of hope – that even when things are bad, positive change in some way is always possible. And, that in order for change to take place in people’s lives, service providers need to provide more than just practical support – they need to engage people in the motivation, understanding, beliefs and skills that are needed for them to create that change in themselves.

The Journey of Change built into each version of the Star breaks down what change means into small, achievable steps – building on a huge body of evidence to unpack the natural steps people go through in the journey to recovery, self-reliance and being enabled to live as well as possible. By making those steps clear, the Star helps workers understand what service users are going through and how best to help them at each stage, and it helps service users understand and reflect on their own journey.

2. Because the Outcomes Star focuses on sustainable outcomes

While practical changes in a person’s circumstances, such as new accommodation or new training courses, may be very important, it is not enough to bring out lasting change. Change within the person is the key active ingredient and it is therefore the relationship of the individual to the challenges that they face that is the primary focus in most versions of the Outcomes Star. It’s also why the Star is holistic – focusing on several areas of a person’s life, instead of just one or two – because you have to improve things on many fronts to ensure that change is deep rooted and sustainable.

This contrasts with other assessment and outcomes measurement tools that focus on the severity of the problem, such as the number of units of alcohol consumed in the case of substance misuse, or on external circumstances, such as whether a person has a job or a home or not. The Outcomes Star approach assumes that these things are important and should be measured, but that on their own they give a limited picture.

3. Because the Outcomes Star both measures and supports change

Most tools fall into one of two categories – either they support the keywork process but fail to provide systematic, objective outcomes data, or they provide good outcomes data but are not popular with keyworkers and service users because they are cumbersome and/or intrusive.

In contrast, the Outcomes Star is designed to both measure distance-travelled and support the process of change. Bringing these two functions together helps to ensure they keywork is outcomes focused whilst making sure services are measuring what matters.

4. Because the Outcomes Stars are sector-wide

Developing robust and meaningful ways of measuring outcomes takes considerable time and effort. The Outcomes Star brings together years of development with frontline workers and service users, the experience and skill of outcomes practitioners that have led the field since the early 90s, and engaging, high quality writing and design into a family of evidence-based ‘off the shelf’ and ready to use tools. Through Triangle, the Outcomes Star is supported by training, manuals and an online system in the Star Online that makes the job of measuring outcomes do-able rather than an impossible mountain to climb.

In addition, we believe sector-wide tools are the most effective way to enable organisations to measure, learn and develop by helping organisations to share data and learning, providing a shared language and understanding between providers and commissioners, and providing consistency and continuity for service users as they move along a service pathway.

5. Because the Outcomes Star is empowering – done with, not done to

Central to the success of using the Outcomes Star is the idea of collaboration between a keyworker and a service user – bringing service users into their own journey of change by completing Stars in collaboration with them.

The Outcomes Star makes this collaboration possible by being grounded in the relationship between a keyworker and a service user, by being built around an explicit model of change, and by being written and designed in ways that can be understood without the need for a clinical or professional background. Keyworkers find that by genuinely collaborating with service users through the Star, they can find out much more about a person’s life and have more impactful interactions over time.

6. Because the Outcomes Star is accessible and engaging

Unlike many other outcomes tools, an engaging design and user-friendliness are fundamental to the Outcomes Star, both in terms of the look and feel of the Stars and the jargon-free, straightforward language they use. Thanks to expert design from our partners in Jellymould Creative and our own team of skilled writers, editors and designers, the Stars stand out with their clear, friendly and helpful resources.

And, at the very heart of the Outcomes Star is the Star shape itself. Stars in themselves have many positive associations and using the Star as a radial chart means it’s easy to see progress and where you’re doing well and not so well – something that keyworkers and service users frequently tell us they really like.

7. Because the Outcomes Star provides a clear outcomes framework

In its simple and straightforward style, the Outcomes Star can help services clarify what it is they are aiming to achieve – what the end outcomes is for the service user that they are supporting. And it clarifies the intermediate outcomes too – setting out the ‘stepping stones’ on the way to that final destination across a wide range of areas relevant to a person’s life.

Together, these provide a shared language and framework that can support effective and consistent key-work across a team of keyworkers, help clarify goals and outcomes between providers and commissioners, enable relevant and meaningful outcomes reporting and support multi-disciplinary working too.

8. Because the Outcomes Star improves action planning

Through the Journey of Change built into every version of the Outcomes Star, keyworkers can develop a more systematic understanding of what works well and what works less well for service users at each stage of their journey.

This means that action plans can be more realistic, more achievable and more empowering, and that interventions can be better targeted and more effective. Triangle’s core Star training for keyworkers has a big focus on this – the link between completing a Star and translating that into an action plan – to ensure that services can realise the benefits of working in this way.

9. Because the Outcomes Star delivers meaningful data

The data sets the Outcomes Star can provide can be a valuable addition to an organisation, often providing a unique insight into service user’s attitudes, behaviours and ‘softer’ more intrinsic outcomes.

Star data delivers across a number of levels:

  • For service users and workers it provides clear evidence of personal progress
  • For service managers it gives an overview of service achievements, an ‘at a glance’ summary of worker caseloads
  • For senior managers it offers insight into what services are achieving, early warning signs when services are in difficulty and helpful pointers to good practice that can be replicated elsewhere
  • For governors and commissioners it provides evidence of specific achievements and comparability across services and time periods
  • Psychometric studies show that if the Star is used accurately and in line with best practice, Star data is valid and reliable as a measure of personal outcomes.

10. Because Triangle are here to help you use it well

Since the development of the original prototype with St. Mungo’s in 2003, Triangle have worked in partnership with hundreds of organisations of all shapes and sizes, learning more and more about what works when implementing and using the Star in frontline services.

One of Triangle’s key objectives is to help organisations use the Outcomes Star well, and to help people get the most out of their investment in the tool. Recently we’ve established account management support so that all organisations have a named Triangle person to support them over time, and launched additional resources for Licensed Star Users, with more developments planned for the future.