Ehren Reed, the Skoll Foundation's Director of Evaluation, was recently asked what matters when he is looking at the measurements social entrepreneurial organizations use.
"Organizations have the power to achieve the change donors are looking to make," he says. Here are some of his "izes," as he calls them:
- Contextualize. It's helpful when I can see clearly how the work is contextualized within an organization's efforts. Whether it's Kevin Starr's Eight – Word Mission Statement or a theory of change, there needs to be clear description of their goals, and the actions they are doing to lead to that. I want to know how those metrics you're sharing connect with that core strategy.
- Prioritize. There are a ton of things that you could be measuring. The fact that you have gone through an exercise to winnow it down to meaningful measures is a good sign. Those measures should be influenced by what you are able to do with that information. If you are collecting something you are not making use of, you are wasting time and money.
- Capitalize. Don't answer a question that you need not answer. There are certain outcomes and indicators that are critical to your work, and more attributable to your efforts. Concentrate on those. There are others that you can say, 'We made a contribution to those.' Leave those alone. For example: Citizen Schools increases graduation rates of students who attend their program by 20 percent over a control; that's the compelling story. I don't need to know whether that leads to greater income generation after high school graduation; there are studies that already show me that. Be efficient with the way you are spending your dollars.
- Right Size. Not everyone in the organization needs to look at all the same data. At One Acre Fund, workers in the field pay attention to which farmers are attending trainings, what types of uptake are they having with particular techniques they are being taught, and types of repayment rates. That's the type of information they need to know to see if they are doing their job effectively. Middle managers look at aggregated data. Leadership looks at only a key set of performance indicators. So right size your approach accordingly.
- Systematize. The idea that we see M and E as a separate report gives me pause; it's a dangerous misnomer. It needs to be part and parcel of your programmatic activity. If it's all focused on a report which comes out once a year, and there is not a lot behind the scenes leading up to that report, that gives me pause. An example: Your car dashboard metrics allow you to know if your car is functioning effectively. You look at the dashboard every day. It's only when you get to the selling of the car that you say, 'It gets a lot of miles per gallon,' or 'It's been in two minor accidents.'