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September 6, 2013

Evaluation: it’s your business

Executive Director’s note from Issue 5, September 2013 on new approaches to measurement and evaluation.

Duncan Peppercorn

Most of us work for associations, companies or societies. The words are appropriate: these are societies, associations – or indeed companies – of ‘members’, who have banded together under a common cause, enunciated in the constitution or equivalent, to pursue together an agreed ‘business’. This is true of for-purpose as much as for-profit organisations. It should be clear what the business is, and what it is trying to achieve.

But we lose our way. We are buffeted by the expectations and demands of the shadowy band of ‘stakeholders’ that lurk around our camp. Clients, of course, whose needs are fundamental to our success (whether we seek to assist them, or sell to them); but also funders, government, employees, the community in which we work… the list goes on. How should we satisfy them all, and in the context of this issue of the SVA Quarterly: how should we monitor and evaluate whether we are meeting their needs?

We can’t. We must focus on what our organisation has been set up and has decided to achieve, and look for stakeholders who wish to support us to do it, rather than flexing to try and accommodate everyone’s expectations.

This is the idea strongly espoused by New Philanthropy Capital’s Tris Lumley in my interview with him as he calls on leaders to be brave and hold to clear goals and evaluate against those goals. This, in turn, leads to a focus on evaluating to improve, and to demonstrate that we are achieving what we set out to do, rather than measuring everything, or everything that we are asked to track.

In this issue, Prashan Paramanathan and Jon Huggett make a blunt case for simple and timely measures over long-term ‘proof’. In our case study, Indigenous Business Australia has taken a bold step to establish its own clear but simple objectives and to ingrain the measurement of social impact into its investment work. We also offer some new thoughts on how to use Social Return on Investment (SROI) effectively as an investment decision-making tool, and the article on how to pick a winning social enterprise demonstrates the value of data in making investment decisions.

Just in case you are exhausted by measurement, Duncan Lockard explains how to structure your advocacy successfully… in seven easy steps!

As always, we welcome your feedback. If you disagree, tell us. If you agree, tell others. And if you think we can help you, give me a call.

Duncan Peppercorn
Duncan Peppercorn
Executive Director SVA Consulting

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