Wednesday, May 5, 2010

So much stuff ... and so little metric about progress and performance

Dear Colleagues

This morning, I have been looking through a tiny bit of the volumes of material that flow out of the Washington DC community of relief and development experts. In the process I found a report written by the Emerging Markets Group (EMG) and funded by USAID that contained the following paragraphs. I thought it worth digging a bit deeper because there are so many different initiatives that add up to a very large amount of money and very little observable impact.

I have to admit that at the end of this little exercise, I was not better informed about the performance of the initiative than I was at the beginning. A simple one line conclusion is that there is an awful lot of activity that gets funded, but very little result!
Nike Foundation ‘Value Girls’ Project: The ‘Value Girls’ Project is a three-year grant from the Nike Foundation whose objective is to develop, test, and document a replicable, scalable and sustainable model for economically empowering adolescent girls and young women using a value chain approach. The program works with girls aged 14 to 24 in the Lake Victoria region of western Kenya, and targets two types of beneficiaries: out-of school girls and young women, and in-school girls. The project facilitates value chain entry and strengthens value chain participation for out-of-school girls and young women while simultaneously preparing in-school girls for eventual integration into the formal economy.
In the first few months of the project, EMG conducted a girl-centered value chain assessment of the Tilapia, Omena and related value chains, for girls and young women living along the shores of Lake Victoria in five riparian districts: Kisumu, Busia, Bondo, Suba and Migori.  The situation analysis examined the broader context in which the girls who may enter the program are living in order to characterize the socio-economic situation and current opportunities; identified local partners for potential collaboration; and informed the baseline study and the selection of appropriate program interventions.
What I wanted to find was simply how much of the Nike Foundation resources were used, and what sort of impact was achieved ... what sort of outcomes were being achieved from a value chain approach ... and a value girls approach.

Simply put, without an inordinate amount of research effort, it is difficult if not impossible to find a simple answer to the question of how much did this initiative cost and what was the impact.

Using the ubiquitous research tool, Google, it was possible to find something about the work of the Nike Foundation ... and, frankly, based on a quick overview, it was quite impressive. It including this link which was interesting ... but I did not find anything about cost and the related socio-economic progress and performance associated with the work referred to in the extract from the EMG report.

I was led to a link which I liked very much, but it is a clever presentation about an important issue and, while it is probably quite effective in helping to encourage donations ... and in building a fan base on Facebook ... it is not very helpful at all in the serious analysis of socio-economic development progress and performance.

I cannot imagine if a corporate organization like, for example, General Electric was to replace its financial reporting with pictures of its projects and the simple statement that GE stands for imagination and innovation. The business media would have a fit ... quite correctly. But when it comes to socio-economic progress, we accept the equivalent as if it is an acceptable norm. It is not!

Which brings me back ... as always ... to the critical need for a paradigm shift in how we do metrics of socio-economic progress and performance. Community Analytics (CA) can be part of the solution to the data deficiency that is being so damaging to global society.

Peter Burgess

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