Setting objectives

Before setting your own program objectives you may want to review what peer support programs seek to achieve to consider what is realistic for these types of programs.

What are objectives?

Objectives are the stepping stones towards achieving a program goal. Objectives are concise, specific statements which indicate what you are seeking to change and why, in what target group, by how much and by when.

Why are clear objectives important?

Clear objectives are important to determine whether your program is achieving what it set out to do. It is also important to write program objectives as specifically as possible to provide program clarity and strong links to evaluation. It is much easier to evaluate a program when clear objectives have been developed.

Program objectives are short term outcomes and may seek to measure changes in:

  • the environment;
  • community response;
  • community participation;
  • infrastructure development;
  • policy development;
  • risk factors;
  • knowledge and skill development;
  • behaviour; and
  • attitudes.

Writing and setting objectives

When writing objectives, keep them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time specific):

Specific (concrete, detailed, well defined)

Objectives should specify what you need to achieve. You should use language that is specific, i.e. state the issue, the target group, the time and place of the program. Specific also means that it’s result and action-orientated.

Things you might ask to clarify if your objective is specific:

  • What exactly are we going to do, with or for whom?
  • Is the objective described with action verbs?
  • Is it clear where this will happen?
  • Is it clear what needs to happen?
  • Is the outcome clear?
Measurable (numbers, quantity, comparison)

You should be able to measure whether you are meeting the objective or not.

Things you might ask to clarify if your objective is measurable:

  • What do I want to see changed and by when?
  • Can we measure it?
  • How will I know that the change has occurred?
  • Can these measurements be obtained?
  • How will we collect the data?
  • Who will collect the data?
Achievable (numbers, quantity, comparison)

You need to be realistic about what can be achieved by the program in terms of the scale/scope of what is being done, the time and resources available.

Things you might ask to clarify if your objective is achievable:

  • Can we get it done in the proposed timeframe?
  • Do I understand the limitations and constraints?
  • Can we do this with the resources we have?
  • Has anyone else done this successfully?
  • Is this possible?
Realistic (considering resources)

Can you realistically achieve the objectives with the resources you have? Remember that objectives can be staged i.e. achieve x in year 1, achieve y in year 2.

Things you might ask to clarify if your objective is realistic:

  • Do we have the resources available to achieve this objective?
  • Do we need to revisit priorities to make this happen?
  • Is it possible to achieve this objective?
  • Have others achieved this?
  • Are we expecting too much?
Time Specific (a defined time line)

Be clear in the objectives about the timeframe in which the expected changes of the program will take place.

Things you might ask to clarify if your objective is time-specific:

  • When do you want to achieve the set objectives?
  • When will this objective be accomplished?
  • Is there a stated deadline?