The Center for the Study of Social Work Practice hosted a National Symposium on Outcomes Measurement in the Human Services on November 9th and 10th, 1995. This issue of Practice & Research presents the Symposium program and related events. The Symposium, held on the campus of Columbia University, brought together an interdisciplinary group of nearly 300 practitioners, administrators, policy analysts and researchers from across the United States as well as from Britain, Canada and Israel to examine outcomes measurement in the human services. The contents of this issue of the Journal are based on the Symposium papers and discussions.

Participants explored various aspects of outcomes measurement in the human services with special attention to the areas of physical, mental and behavioral health and services to children and families. The Symposium provided a forum to critically examine issues and methods of outcomes measurement currently important to the human services. The Symposium was convened because of the importance of carefully considering the issues associated with outcomes measurement as the nation engages in a re-examination of the purposes of social interventions and desired outcomes. National debates regarding health and welfare reform have and will continue to focus attention on outcomes - both intended and unintended. For the research community there is particular need to add to this discussion by addressing the tough issues of outcomes measurement. While the topic of outcomes measurement has been and will continue to be extensively discussed in many forums the issues have particular relevance to the social work profession which is a core group providing social services. Outcomes measurement requirements are already reshaping the nature of social work practice, social agency programs, and organized service systems. This reshaping will continue during the next decade.

The symposium examined the following questions:

How can outcomes measurement be usefully reconceptualized, and placed in historical, public policy, administration, practice and research contexts?

What is the legislative and public policy context of outcomes measurement - why is there a need to address outcomes in a measurable way?

What approaches to outcomes measurement are being promulgated? - a descriptive and critical analysis.

What can be said about the reliability, validity and quality of existing approaches to outcomes measurement and their relevance for social work interventions?

What are the implications for social programs and for practitioners of the increasing attention to outcomes measurement?

What are the implications for future research?

While outcomes measurement is a broad topic the symposium focused on how this topic is being redefined in the context of public policy. Social work has long been concerned in its research with evaluation of effectiveness. More recently the managed care context has pushed the profession toward thinking of outcomes measurement as an integral part of service delivery. The Symposium provided the profession with an opportunity to rethink outcomes measurement in this new context. While the focus was on implications for social work, the expertise pertaining to this topic is necessarily interdisciplinary. Accordingly, presentations were made by experts drawn from relevant professions and disciplines.

The proceedings are being prepared as a book to be published in the second quarter of 1997 (Mullen, E.J. and Magnabosco, J., Eds., in press. Outcomes Measurement in the Human Services, Washington, D.C.: National Association of Social Workers Press).

This Symposium is the third national conference sponsored by the Center for the Study of Social Work Practice since its founding in 1987. The Symposium was supported by gifts from the Virginia and Leonard Marx Foundation, the Beatman Foundation, and David S. Lindau. A reception hosted by David and Josie Lindau was held in the Rotunda of the Columbia University Low Library. For their generous support and encouragement, we thank Virginia W. Marx, Francis Beatman, Josie and David S. Lindau (chair Center Development Council), and other members of the Centerís Development Council. The Symposium was planned by a subcommittee of the Center, including Robert Abramovitz, Rita Black, Grace Christ, Steve Cohen, Bruce Grellong, Andre Ivanoff, Jennifer Magnabosco, Lawrence Martin, Brenda McGowan, Rami Mosseri, Edward Mullen, Anne OíSullivan, Helen Rehr, Doris L. Rosenberg, and Annaclare van Dalen. Symposium rapporteurs were Michael Arsham, Mark Cameron, Paul Cavanaugh, Joseph Frisino, Yvone Johnson, Katina Georgopolas, Louisa Gilbert, Mark Holter, Dara Kerkorian, Gary Mallon, Anne OíSullivan, Michael Powell, Jeanette Schiff, Karun Singh, Julia Rothchild-Stewart, and Elaine Walsh. Many others contributed to the Symposium's success including: Joseph Tobin, Kathy Wilke, Jane Waldfogel, Jane Hoffer, Jeanne Connor, Gary Katcher, Donald McVinney, Mary Francis De Rose, Steven Sher and Patrick Villeneuve.