Backward mapping: Creating your results flow

Backward mapping is a strategic planning process that starts with your ultimate outcome and works back to connect it to the activities you’ve identified in the previous step. This approach ensures that everything you do is aligned with your ultimate goal.

Here’s how to create your results flow through backward mapping:

Start with your ultimate outcome

Begin by stating your ultimate outcome. Place it at the top of your workspace in a visual tool like Miro. In addition to the above, another example is Weird Ghosts’ ultimate outcome: “All marginalized game creators and studio founders in Canada have equitable access to a sustainable funding system and the resources they need to achieve their goals.” (Psst… if you use Miro, copy this board to get started really fast!)

Identify your activities

Next, place your core activities at the bottom of your workspace. You identified 3-5 of these in the previous step. An example: One of Weird Ghosts’ core activities is offering a peer-led community-based training program. Another example could be “Developing games that feature LGBTQIA+ characters and narratives.” In the diagram below, we’ve also created labels for each pillar.

Brainstorm long-, medium-, and short-term outcomes

For each activity, brainstorm the outcomes you expect to see in the short, medium, and long term. These outcomes should be a direct result of your activities and point toward your ultimate outcome.

TIP: Each outcome should reflect WHO is impacted and WHAT the impact is.
  • Short-term outcomes are the immediate effects of your activities – changes in skills, knowledge, awareness, interests, and motivation. For example, a short-term outcome of Weird Ghosts’” Community” activity is that creators feel an increased sense of community. In the case of developing games that feature LGBTQIA+ characters and narratives, a short-term outcome could be “Players gain exposure to diverse characters and narratives.”
  • Medium-term outcomes are the changes in action, behaviour, practice, and attitude that result from the short-term outcomes. For Weird Ghosts, a medium-term outcome is that creators reinvest in the community. A medium-term outcome for the game development activity might be “Players develop empathy and understanding towards LGBTQIA+ identities.”
  • Long-term outcomes are the changes in state or condition that result from the medium-term outcomes. A long-term outcome for Weird Ghosts is that creators feel a sense of belonging to a community they can engage with, support, and draw from. In the case of the game development activity, a long-term outcome could be “Players advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights and inclusion.”

In your visual workspace, draw three columns or pillars below your ultimate outcome for these long-term, medium-term, and short-term outcomes. Place the long-term outcomes closest to the ultimate outcome and the short-term outcomes at the bottom.

Map outcomes to activities

Now, draw lines to connect your activities to your short-, medium- and long-term outcomes and those to your ultimate outcome. Each line represents a step in your results flow, showing how each activity and outcome contributes to your ultimate outcome.

This process will require some iteration as you make connections between your activities and outcomes and refine your outcomes to be as clear (hint: and as measurable) as possible. It’s okay if it’s not perfect on the first try – this is a living document. We just updated Weird Ghosts’ last month!

By the end of this process, you should have a clear visual representation of your results flow, showing how your activities lead to your ultimate outcome. This will be a critical tool for planning, implementing, and evaluating your studio’s impact. You can read more about that in our article Developing Your Impact Measurement Framework