In the space of weeks, countless community-based organizations have had to shift what they are doing while being faced with reduced staff hours, fewer volunteers, disruptions to revenue, social distancing restrictions and other constraints. Yet the demand and need for many services that non-profits and social enterprises deliver are high. New needs are emerging, and many programs are being introduced. Across the community – in health care delivery, social services, education, to name a few – we are witnessing a great deal of creativity and experimentation in (re)designing programs.
Impact and performance measurement practices that rely on clearly articulated goals, a plausible theory of change, and attention to performance metrics attached to goals, are not particularly useful in this complex and rapidly changing environment. What is needed are processes and information gathering that can support organizations to try out different actions that guide the direction of program development and redesign. Fortunately, there are management and evaluation practices that can help guide community-based organization in these unprecedented times.
Here are a few suggestions:
At the same time that organizations on the ground have had to adapt and evolve new ways of working, it is critical that governments and funders are able to change performance measurement expectations and support learning by providing resources for evaluation and creating a culture that supports experimentation and risk-taking.
Great resources for learning more about some of the ideas brought out in today’s blog include: