Thursday, March 14, 2013

Harvard Business Review on measuring impact

Here's a a link to a thoughtful piece by Alnoor Ebrahim in the Harvard Business Review called "Let's Be Realistic about Measuring Impact." It compares the measurement processes of three different organizations, each of which uses a different approach. One measures outputs, another measures short-term outcomes and estimates long-term outcomes, while the third thinks hard - and waits for - long-term outcomes. Each uses some form of proxy measures when necessary. Each organization puts the resources necessary into making its measurements meaningful. And they've figured out a way to get around, where necessary, their research limitations. Says Ebrahim:
Notice that none of these three organizations typically measures impact directly. They hypothesize what the outcomes and impacts might be but only in some instances are they able to follow through by commissioning their own research or multi-year evaluations. And these are sophisticated funders and investors who are much better positioned to measure long-term results than the front line organizations that contend with funding shortages and operational challenges every day.

I've written before about the importance of using outcome measures. It's hard to do well, but well worth the effort. Has your organization tried? What were the problem areas? What worked well?

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