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Measuring what matters

As 2013 draws to a close we have been thinking about measuring the achievements of the past year, inspired by the module on ‘measurement’ in the Masters in Social Innovation we’re working on in Austria.

Measurement is certainly a big issue, and no more so than in the social economy or the social sector. The proliferation of tools, agencies and consultants affirms that data and more data demonstrating how ‘effective’ you are as a social enterprise, charity, social firm, provider of human services, or green company is now crucial for providing evidence that your activities are having some kind of impact.

Enter big data. We have the technology to create, connect, correlate, aggregate, store, process and report on sophisticated sets of analytics, logarithms, equations, indicators and data.

So is all that information useful? Well, it depends on why you’re measuring your impact, and for whose interest.

Many measurement agencies have developed intricate formulas, assessment criteria and indicators, and charge a significant amount for access to their particular measurement tool kit. These metrics are worth buying because they will prove the success of your project to funding bodies and government.

But are these metrics actually relevant to delivering value for our customers and achieving our mission, as well as satisfying our funding bodies?

For example, let’s take all this measurement to the small impoverished Meru View School outside Arusha in Tanzania. It’s the school we support at The Dragonfly Collective. Let’s apply some of the metrics one can buy from those in the measurement industry.

The facts: $26 AUD provides two meals a day, health care and vitamins, pre-school education and introduction to English (essential for future prospects in Tanzania) for one child for one month.

The metrics (for customers):

  • Did you get two meals today?
  • Did you have a health check at school today?
  • Did you have soap and running water to wash your hands before each meal and after you went to the toilet?
  • Do you have enough clothes to wear?
  • Did you count numbers today?
  • Did you practice English today?
  • Are you still hungry?

The metrics (for donors):

  • Did you get the intended return on your investment when you contributed to this project?
  • Are you happy with the outcomes for the children on the basis of your donation?
  • What do you aspire for the children and have you achieved this with your donation?

The perspective you take when measuring can lead you down very different paths. Just because you’re ticking a measurement box, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right one to tick. What matter to customers in the immediate future might not actually be that complicated.

So in the spirit of developing complex metrics systems, as a Christmas gift to you all we have designed a sophisticated set of tools for you to measure your achievements over 2013 available at the Christmas give away price of £1000 or $1804.13 if purchased before midnight 24 December! Orders received before midnight will receive a free sample of turkey, ham, chicken, lobster, duck with all the trimmings and a free bottle of fizzy.

So happy Christmas from the team at The Dragonfly Collective. And as you reflect on all your achievements over the past twelve months, remember that not everything that matters can be measured, not every thing that can be measured matters. Sometimes it’s actually the little things that have the most impact.

Cheers to celebrating the little things that make a difference for others.

Talk more in 2014.

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