Outcomes Measurement = An Important Discussion that Needs to be Actioned

Outcomes Measurement = An Important Discussion that Needs to be Actioned

I remember the day and I definitely remember the guy. Nick Haney’s on the phone talking about CRM but for a different purpose. He was talking about client management and he was looking for a way to track outcomes and to measure the difference that his organisation is making in people’s lives. Wow I thought – this is awesome!

I was fascinated and excitedly set a time to meet with Nick. In my preparation for our  meeting I researched the organisation and gained an understanding of the services provided by this Not-for-Profit which included programs that encompassed working with children with an disability. As the father of Kate, born with Down syndrome, and having increasingly become involved in pro-bono work with Not-for-Profit’s, I could not wait to talk to Nick to understand more.

I still remember how I felt walking out of the meeting after Nick had introduced me to a whole different way of thinking. He talked about this guy Mark Friedman and his book Trying Hard is Not Good Enough” and this approach Results-Based Accountability™ (RBA). This thinking was so compelling and made such good sense. Armed with an understanding of the goals, current situation of the organisation and the capabilities they required for an outcomes focused client management system I wondered if trying to customise a generic CRM to meet this need was the right answer.

This was to be first of many meetings and discussion with Nick – deep often passionate discussions about how technology could support this RBA approach. Nick ultimately left this organisation and I never ended up providing a solution but by that time Nick had started me on a journey of discovery in how to apply technology to operationalise this outcomes based approach.

And that’s the great thing that Nick provided me with – an insight and way of looking at things that took me beyond just a discussion on “Outcomes Measurement”. My reflections come after 5 years and hundreds of meetings and discussions with:

  • Some of the leading thinkers around outcomes both locally and internationally
  • Organisations that had formed a Community of Practice
  • Organisations that aspired to and achieved Outcomes Management
  • Board members and executives struggling on where to start
  • Communities and some “leaders” that talked and theorised a lot but just never got started

Just as I had experienced in adopting the concept of CRM in the For Profit world what developed was two very different paths an results, based on how people and organisations tackled this problem. The challenge for Social Good organisations was rooted in the challenge that I saw in poor performing organisations in the For Profit sector. There was a disconnect between the aspirations, the mission/vision of the organisation, and how things were actually being done on the ground. It manifested itself with a lot of good people with great intentions not achieving the impact that they were capable of because there was no compass to guide their work.

This was where the road became divided as for some organisations the discussion is all about the measurement and just as in the For Profit sector the domain of slow moving, consultant led projects stuck in theory that seem to be all talk but with limited clarity and poor execution.

What transpired for me and was the link between what I had seen be successful in the For Profits and what was needed in Social Good organisations in applying technology. It was all about operationalising the process, ingraining it into the day to day, engaging with it, reporting and analysing it, talking about it, acting on it, living it, improving it and using it beyond the boundaries of their own organisation in how they worked with others.

The simple analogy that many would have seen can be identified as follows:

  • A CRM implementation that is effectively a glorified address book and often “automated chaos” that resulted from a lack of clarity and simplification
  • A CRM that been implemented based on a deep understanding of complex processes where time has been taken to create clarity and simply the complex processes:
    • Identification of 4-5 headline measures in each key area
    • Consideration on how people, teams and organisations collaborate
    • Change management that combines respect for the work of the front-line staff whilst addressing the data driven or evidence based approaches that are so critical to sustaining the work
    • A deeper understanding of the why or in RBA speak:
      • How much did we do?
      • How well did we do it?
      • Is anyone better off?

Through all of this I realised that the most successful projects that I had seen across my 30 years of applying technology to solve problems, effect actionable change and achieve sustainable improvement, and this was a certain way of thinking identified by the RBA as “Turn the Curve” thinking.

“Once you identify the most powerful measure(s) to improve, RBA provides a step-by-step process to get from ends to means.”

My intention in writing this piece is to cut through what I what I envisage as being the clear road block to the significant systems change that is so needed and so close at hand with the technology available to support. Boards, management and staff alike need to educate themselves on this way off thinking and to just get started on operationalising Outcomes Measurement, and not just talking about it.

So take up the batton, let’s continue the discussion, find a Community of Practice like the Blackbaud Ecosystem of Social Good and … let’s just get started.

Outcomes Management = Operationalising Outcome Measurement = Results and Impact

Outcomes Measurement = An Important Discussion that Needs to be Actioned

PS. To assist your journey another great resource is Leap of Reason.

 

The Secret Sauce of Making Collaboration Work

The Secret Sauce of Making Collaboration Work

Back in October I wrote briefly about a trip I did to Burnie in Tasmania as part of the The Search initiative in Turning the Curve Thinking. The Search was an initiative of Kerry Graham and Collaboration for Impact to select the most promising, early stage collective impact initiative in Australia.

As stated in the brief “This community will act as a ‘lighthouse’ example for future Collective Impact initiatives, and transform the way that Australian communities work together to solve our toughest social issues.”

As I headed back to Burnie in mid November, as part of the Executive Visit of the Catalysing Group, I wondered how the work being done by the Burnie Works initiative would live up to this brief. As we arrived to spend two days learning together about the work being done it was evident from the packed agenda there was a lot going on – but would it be transformational?

We first took a tour of the town and heard the back story of the rapid growth and then demise of major industries/employers in the town which left Burnie with the underlying challenges around employment and keeping children at school and/or in a learning environment.

We broke into groups to visit and learn about different parts of the initiative:

  • Dream Big – a program that encourages Grade 5 students to Dream Big and look beyond perceived barriers when considering their future beyond High School.
  • BIG – an industry and education group formed by representatives in the community focused on valuing education and guiding children onto a positive career and life pathway.
  • Hilltop Garden Market – A community food hub to support the development of skills and knowledge around healthy lifestyles and food production.
  • Communities for Children – provides funding and coordination for services and activities that ensure children have the best start in life by encouraging a positive approach.
  • 10 Families – is using collective impact and a whole family approach focused on school attendance to assist families to ensure that their children remain connected to education.
  • Employment Partnership Group – is made up of representatives for Jobactive Providers, Registered Training Organisations and Disability Employment Services in Burnie.

After day 1 it was evident that there was certainly a level of passion, a sense of community and a common agenda. Each program in it’s own right was doing good work but was it enough to be transformational? At dinner we met with the Local Enabling Group and came away thinking that along with the passion, sense of community and common agenda there were some visionary and emotionally intelligent people leading this initiative.

On day 2 our group visited the 10 families initiative and this was the moment for me that it all came together. We met a the Family and Community Centre/Hub and witnessed the depth of the collaboration. This was not just a number of parts operating independently to a common good but a interconnected body of work that was operating to turn the curve. At the core of this, and this is the kicker, was a focus on outcomes for the families. The initiatives and all the good work was contributing at multiple levels to effect a change in outcomes for families. From parents having the opportunity to attend tertiary eduction (which they had not believed possible), to grade 5 children having the ability to experience and dream big their future, to employers retraining and re-skilling, displaced workers – and thats just a small slice of the action!

And there we were sitting around a table hearing from those involved in 10 Families how they had put the families at the centre enabling them to rise above the limitations of how agencies are funded and to provide wrap around services drawing on the collective resources available. This was transformational.

My trip to Burnie has left me with a belief that this community has found the secret sauce to making collaboration work. Theme’s emerged – being humble, about the group and what we are doing not individuals, innovation, willing to work with us, prepared to experiment and take risks, come from a client perspective not a service provider perspective.

There is much work to be done to sustain the initiative to make an impact over time. To do this requires multi-level change:

  • Change Outcomes at Employment & Education level
  • Change Behaviours at Families level
  • Change Practice at Organisation & Institutional level
  • Change System at the Funder level.

The quote on the Burnie Works new website says it best:

“Many small people who in many small places do many small things that can alter the face of the world”

Anonymous – Berlin Wall

This is the essence of the initiative – it has only come about through good people who had a collective vision and the commitment and purpose to bring people along on the journey (They are featured in the video!). I feel privileged to have spent time with those people and can’t wait to take the next step of the journey with them.