Opportunities, Outputs, and Outcomes

by Lauren Behgam
June 7, 2013

Lauren Behgam '15 is a Starr Fellow living in Washington D.C. this summer working on the Food Recovery Network.

I moved to Washington D.C. a week ago, and every day has been equally as different as it has been exciting. With every passing hour, I fall more in love with the city and I feel more grateful for the opportunity the Starr Fellowship has given me to pursue my work with the Food Recovery Network (FRN) this summer. FRN is a national student led non-profit that empowers university students to rescue surplus edible food that would have otherwise been wasted and donate it to those in need. This summer is so exciting because it is the first time since the organization’s founding that multiple FRN staff members and interns are working together, full time, in the same location. Our home for the summer is a decked out space called the Startup Shell, a shared co-working space for student startups at the University of Maryland.

As we plan for the summer, knowledge I gained through the Starr Fellowship is having a substantial influence on my goals. I learned much more from the Starr Fellowship than I could express in a single blog post, but one of the most important things I learned was the importance of logic models. A logic model is a framework used to analyze the inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes of an organization’s work.

I plan on working with the rest of the FRN team to critically analyze the difference between the outputs and the outcomes of the work we do. While we can easily quantify the pounds of food we recover and our number of volunteers, how do we quantify the impact this food has on the people we serve? How do we quantify the impact this food has on the community organizations we partner with? How do we quantify the impact this work has on the student volunteers in our organization? Moving forward, our team will critically challenge assumptions we have made about our outcomes and we will challenge ourselves to innovate over and over again.

My first week in D.C. has already been full of opportunities to think about outputs, outcomes and how to address them. In the words of Sheryl Sandberg, “opportunities are rarely offered, they’re seized,” and I plan on seizing as many opportunities as I can in the coming weeks. Last week, I was a judge for Banking on Youth, a social entrepreneurship competition co-hosted by Ashoka Youth Venture and the Consumer Banker’s Association, which I won last year representing FRN. This week, I recovered hundreds of pounds of food from both the University of Maryland and a local farmers market. Yesterday, I attended the USDA’s Food Waste Challenge Launch Event. As my team and I seize opportunities this summer, I am confident that we will better understand the difference between the outputs and outcomes of the FRN’s activities, all while increasing FRN’s impact in fighting waste and feeding people.