Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A message about Social Performance Management (SPM)

Dear Colleagues

Last week I got the following message:
On Tue, Mar 30, 2010 at 9:19 AM, The SPM Network wrote:
The SPM Network
Making microfinance work for the poor and excluded
A message to all members of The SPM Network

Dear All,
please find below a message from Anton Simanowitz to all SPM members to help shape a training programme and to participate in a workshop on the 1st of July in Bern!
Dear network member,

I am writing to ask for your input into the work of the SPTF sub-committee on SPM, which I am facilitating. I’m contacting all organisations active in SPM to understand their current priorities and see how the work of the SPTF can help coordinate and support the activities of its members. I am working towards two objectives over the coming months:

* to develop a plan to address remaining gaps in SPM capacity building to be presented to donors in Bern for funding
* to plan the annual learning meeting to be held on one day in Bern.

I’d be grateful if you could respond to this email by April 12th to antons@ids.ac.uk:

What are the remaining gaps that need to be addressed to scale up SPM? The task force has identified capacity building in SPM as a priority. There’s lots happening, but should we be proposing anything else? I am attaching preliminary ideas for a training and coaching programme. Please send me your thoughts on this and other ideas and I will put together a draft proposal for discussion.

Do you want to participate in the SPM learning meeting on Tuesday July 1st in Bern, immediately preceding the SPTF meeting? If so you need to a) let me know b) send ideas for a discussion that you would like to lead – either something that works well you want to share, or an issue that you feel could be addressed collectively. I have suggested that the meeting focuses on capacity building in SPM, but I’m happy to make it more open and consider other issues related to SPM if you feel there are burning issues to include. But please do send me your ideas as I need to structure the workshop around topics that participants want to discuss.

All the best,

SPTF SPM capacity building gaps proposal.doc
SPTF learning meeting participant input.doc
Visit The SPM Network at: http://spmconsortium.ning.com/?xg_source=msg_mes_network
I was not immediately moved to reply ... but eventually decided that I needed to make the point that the prevailing way metrics are done is just not good enough. I therefore wrote:
Dear Anton

I have been an observer of relief and development since the 1970s ... and have never been particularly impressed with the way it was being done. Over the years it has tended to get worse rather than better, mainly because the experts have become better and better educated and less and less knowledgeable. The organizations that have emerged and then become established have become more and more overhead and analysis and less and less fund flow and operational.

For a number of years, the one area of success seemed to be in the microfinance subsector ... but I would argue this success was only relative. Compared to almost all the other modalities for development, microfinance was a roaring success. But in absolute terms microfinance was a rather weak initiative with little potential to change very much ... most of the core reasons for poor socio-economic performance were not addressed because microfinance is not a suitable vehicle for this. This should have been clear from the metrics ... but the metrics are not good enough!

The problem I have with socio-economic performance metrics is that they are expensive and do not give clear answers. The performance of an MFI may be good in financial terms ... but the social impact may be zero, and most survey techniques being used will not get much useful information about this. The Community Analytics (CA) approach which looks at socio-economic performance from the perspective of the community has the potential to show some things that are important ... including the possible reality that microfinance is absorbing a considerable amount of available capital without actually delivering very much value adding for the community.

I am rather disappointed at the current state of metrics ... but maybe with CA, I will be able to make some impact in the field. I do know one thing ... and that is that a powerful independent system of metrics will not be well received by many in the development sector who have never had to operate in a rigorous performance culture. It will be interesting.


Peter Burgess
Community Analytics (CA)
I rather doubt that the message will be read ... and even more doubtful that it will do any good. But "nothing venture, nothing gain!"

Peter Burgess

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