Outcomes and impact mearsurement have become hot topics and for good reason: if you want funding you have to show me why you deserve it. What do you do? What do you achieve? What makes your organisation a good (social) investment? Funders and donors offer support, guidelines, frameworks and systems to help organisations to properly evaluate and monitor their work and best show off their achievements and thus achieve more funding (See the recent NPC blogpost Caring and Sharing).
But there is a danger that with this approach, especially among the smaller charities, outcomes and impact monitoring becomes something external, something imposed from the outside. There is a fear of looking too closely as inevitably the bad will be revealed with the good – I heard this view last week at a meeting to oppose cuts to local services. After listing all the amazing things that the organisation had achieved the chair of the meeting expressed the view that monitoring outcomes was a trick imposed by the government to legitimise cuts. Evaluation and monitoring wasn’t something they needed to do, it was something someone else wanted them to do.
So why Outcomes Monitoring as therapy? Well, therapy helps you identify the good as well as the bad. To see what’s working and to see what needs to change. And you have therapy for yourself, not because your employer or your spouse or your father tells you to. But the effects trickle over into everything: more confidence; better working practices; stronger relationships.
So while organisations will still need to convince their funders that they are value-for-money they can do that because they know who they are, what they do and how and why they do it well. The motivation for outcomes monitoring must come from within the organisation, only then can funders and donors see an organisation at its best.