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Developing a programme framework

Last edited: September 14, 2012

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Drawing upon formative research findings, a programme framework should be developed to illustrate the linkages between programme inputs, outputs and outcomes and may be structured in different ways to reflect the individual shelter characteristics. Common elements that should be part of any framework include:

  • A theory of change for shelter programmes, which explains how specific activities or the approach used in an intervention will contribute to the particular outcome or result the organization seeks to achieve. For example: If women who are fleeing domestic violence are provided with and are able to access a shelter, their immediate safety will be ensured and their risk of suffering recurring abuse will be reduced.
  • Description of programme recipients or beneficiaries, such as women and their children or girls fleeing violence and who:
    • Are seeking short-term safe housing and supports (i.e. emergency shelter)
    • Have previously stayed in an emergency shelter but require longer-term safe housing and supports to reach their goals (i.e. transitional shelter/ accommodation)
    • Are not currently accessing shelters but require different safety and support services (outreach services/ alternative accommodation) to achieve their goals
  • Definition of programme inputs, which are financial and other resources required by shelters and related programming to deliver services.  These may include:
    • Funding – provided by local governments, community foundations, federal organizations or private donors.
    • Staff – including shelter reception or front-line staff, relief staff, coordinators or supervisors, administrators and managers.
    • Volunteers – including those engaged in various boards and committees or those providing support services through donation management or transportation.
    • Facilities – including the physical shelter infrastructure, office space and equipment (e.g. vehicle, kitchen appliances, etc.) and other materials (e.g. clothing, personal hygiene products, items for children, etc.).
  • Definition of activities, which include all services and supports that a programme or shelter provides in order to achieve the desired outcomes, and may include:
    • Arrival and assessment activities
    • Safety planning
    • Basic needs support and donations or other resources
    • Individual counseling and advocacy support
    • Women’s support groups
    • Advocacy and referrals
    • Child care and/or child support
    • Follow-up services and outreach
  • Outputs, which are essentially the numbers of support or service interactions that women and children receive while they are in a shelter or participate in a particular programme. For example:
    • Number of women and children admitted to shelters (usually, per month)
    • Number of women and children who could not be supported/ were turned away
    • Reasons for turnaways
    • Occupancy rates in shelters (usually the percentage of beds or bedrooms filled on a particular night or during a month)
    • Number and type of services requested by the woman and number and type provided.
  • Anticipated outcomes, which describe the change that is expected as a result of the shelter stay or participation in the programme. The outcome statements must be developed carefully so that they clearly identify the type of change that will be measured and ensure that proposed targets are achievable. Outcomes should reflect the context and needs of women served by the programme, and although these can be challenging to measure in a short-stay shelter, there are several outcomes most shelters seek to accomplish. These relate to change in survivors’ knowledge, attitudes, skills, behavior, expectations, emotional status, or life circumstances as a result of receiving services which allow them to address their safety, practical, emotional, and child-related needs.

For shelters with longer-term programmes (six months or longer) or outreach services, outcomes may include:

  • Women and children remain safe over a long period of time
  • Women and children are connected with resources and supports they need to achieve their goals
  • Women have access to a reliable source of income
  • Women have stable, affordable and safe housing
  • Women achieve the goals they have set for themselves (Scottish Women’s Aid, 2011)


Example: In the process of evaluating their services, shelters in Ireland, Scotland and Portugal identified the following goals and outcomes:




To increase women’s and children’s safety

  • women would be physically safe while in refuge
  • women would have more ways to keep themselves and their children safe

To increase survivors’ access to community resources that can enhance their wellbeing

  • increasing women’s awareness of options and community resources

To empower women

Survivors have more:

  • knowledge about domestic abuse dynamics,
  • knowledge of options available to them, and
  • confidence in their decision making


Adapted from: Cris M. Sullivan, Isabel Baptista, Sharon O'halloran, Lydia Okroj, Sarah Morton & Cheryl Sutherland Stewart. 2008. “Evaluating the Effectiveness of Women's Refuges: A Multi‐Country Approach to Model Development”, International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice, 32:2, 291-308.


Once a programme framework has been established, a monitoring and evaluation plan should be developed to guide monitoring activities throughout the programme cycle. Such plans should include: a schedule for the collection of baseline data (or information related to the outcomes based on the situation at the start of the programme); the timing and process for tracking activities as well as individual outcomes over time; and any evaluations that will take place, most often in the middle and at the end of the initiative. Monitoring and evaluation provides ongoing feedback to the establishment to improve on its practices, change things that are not working and track progress to be able to report to government, donors and other potential funders. See guidance on conducting monitoring and evaluation.