Friday, November 12, 2010

Concern USA ... excellent fund raising ... good stories ... no value accounting!

Dear Colleagues

I really do not know why the big and efficient fund raisers for social progress activities do not embrace a value based accountability system like True Value Metrics. These organizations tell heart rending stories about the problems ... then they tell impressive stories about what they are doing ... but they do it in a way that makes it almost impossible to make any judgement about how well they are doing ... and whether their work is doing much good.

The following is an example from Concern USA ... they send me (and perhaps millions of other people) periodic e-mails for fund raising ... but nothing seems to be accessible about what they have done with the money last week, last month, last year and in fact for the last several decades! This is the fund raising email text:
This Week's Challenge: Winning Back the Water in Ethiopia
Field Challenge Friday Team to me

Winning Back the Water in Ethiopia
Posted on Friday, November 12th, 2010
By Joan Bolger, Communications Officer, Concern NY

IMAGE Abebech Tito, from the village of Fango Bijo, Ethiopia

There’s a saying in southwestern Ethiopia and not surprisingly—in an area ravaged by drought for three months of the year—it relates to water. Loosely translated it goes: it’s impossible to win back your water after the bucket has tipped over.

Abebech Tito, a mother of five, told me this through the school fence near her children’s classroom as she considered how her life might have been different had she not dropped out of school at Grade 8. She delivered the proverb with a smile and a shrug. “It was my own foolishness,” she added.

Her village is located in the Rift Valley in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia, where recurrent drought and the prevalence of malaria is notoriously high.
When I followed the link to learn more ... the first step to being a donor, I reached the following text:
This week, Joan Bolger, Concern Worldwide US Communications Officer, writes about her visit to the remote village of Fango Bijo in Ethiopia where she spoke to Abebech Tito, a mother who had dropped out of school at Grade 8 and was determined to choose a different path for her children.

Two of Abebech's boys now attend the Concern-supported “non-formal” school that aims to offer the poorest rural kids “alternative basic education.” Many of these children live in very isolated areas where there are few, if any, government schools—they have to walk long distances every day, on their own, to reach them.

Joan challenges you to learn about the barriers that prevent children in rural Ethiopia from having access to basic education – and to share this blog with your friends.
Now I like education as a "development investment" and I am very much aware how little money needs to be involved in running a "non-formal" school that can be a very good investment. I am also very much aware that the way the modern relief and development community does its monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is horrendously expensive are not very useful. For the money that was spent in having Joan Bolger visit this location and write this story, perhaps 100 children could have had a year of "non-formal" education.

In True Value Metrics, part of the core information is to relate the amount of education capacity in the community in the past ... with the amount of education capacity in the community now ... and to estimate how much resources were used to get from state A to state B. A second element is to assess how much additional human capacity has emerged as a result of the education ... how much better educated are people becoming. A third element is to understand whether or not the education has any value in making the community a better place ... in making the family more able to earn more and move modestly forward to a more prosperous (less poor) situation.

When True Value Metrics is done in the community by local people it costs very little ... and when it is studied by visitors ... or communicated to donors, it gets to be very interesting. Top down is very expensive ... bottom up enables a lot of value for a modest cost.

Peter Burgess

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