Welcome to the Charitable Measurement Initiative!

The Charitable Measurement Initiative is a collaboration of people and organizations that are deeply committed to the belief that social change organizations can mobilize significant new and better investment if they are able to implement a measurement reporting framework that credibly communicates their real impact to donors. The Initiative is directed by GiveIndia and calls on the resources of pilot program partners Keystone Accountability, Global Giving, and New Philanthropy Capital, as well as many other organizations committed to social welfare.

The process began when we decided to combine our previous experiences in humanitarian and charitable work with our current work as corporate lawyers. We sought to find a group in India that was looking to incorporate capital markets/securities concepts in reporting and analysis to create more valuable and transparent information.

Thankfully, we were put in touch with GiveIndia. Give discussed the idea of running a pilot program implementing the Keystone framework developed by Keystone Accountability to see if we could help organizations more clearly articulate the outcomes they wanted and better communicate their actual results to donors. This was exactly what we were hoping to do and gladly agreed to donate a year of time to making this work.

While we were in London, Give put us in touch with Keystone Accountability and New Philanthropy Capital. After many meetings throughout the spring and summer, we arrived at our joint creation – the Charitable Measurement Initiative – and a plan as to how we would seek to help NGOs in India become more transparent, responsive, and efficient, as well as help donors become more engaged and involved.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

First Workshop Observations

Our first workshop consisted of three NGOs. One came three representatives; one came with two representatives; and one came with one representative. It seemed to help to have multiple representatives from an organization so that when we broke apart in groups, they could discuss things with their colleagues. We paired the NGO with one representative with the group with two representatives and had them focus on discussing issues for the NGO with two representatives. Of course, the solo NGO seemed annoyed at first (in fairness to us they were told to bring at least two representatives), but the NGO with two representatives accommodated that NGO so in the end they discussed issues for both groups. We also floated in to help the solo NGO discuss issues. It showed the importance of our pre-workshop diligence, without which it would not have been possible to help that NGO. In the future, we either need to be equally prepared or more forceful in requiring the solo groups to work in combination. As a side note, it also seemed to please the NGOs that we were putting Give through the same exercise. It may be worth doing that for each initial group or having prepared answers for what Give would say.

Initial Feedback as to Motivation

The bad news…I was wrong.....the donor hook was important in getting NGOs interested in the program.

The good news….almost from the beginning, the NGOs understood the value of this reporting framework and were very excited to start seeing things in terms of outcomes and achievement. They were even more excited that donors increasingly want to be part of sustainable and long term change and that there is a growing body of donors who want more than a two page proposal and would prefer to have a continuing and active dialogue. While they still had some concern as to what information donors wanted, by the end they were willing to accept that donors could be convinced that open and honest discussion between all those interested in the issue was to their advantage and something they would want.

The really good news…the NGOs are excited to get things going and are asking to set up follow-up meetings as soon as possible. They are also looking to work with other staff to prepare for the follow-ups. All these are great signs and hopefully suggest that we might be successful in getting NGOs to implement these steps.

Specific Observations

1. It’s what you want to achieve, not what you do. At first, NGOs framed things almost exclusively in terms of what they did (we care for kids, we educate kids, we feed kids) rather than what they want to achieve. This is something we expected. It took a few exercises (through the mapping of the vision of success) for the NGOs to understand how they could frame things in terms of achievement. We need to do a better job of explaining to them why this is important and not just semantics. I think that saying the “looking from the clouds” example worked well (“If I was looking down from the clouds at the organizations, what would I see?”).

2. Strategy vs. Prerequisite Condition: NGOs had a difficult time figuring out what was a precondition to achieving the outcomes it mapped out as necessary to achieving success and what was a strategy to make those preconditions come about. Again, we need to do a better job of explaining why this isn’t semantics and should clarify that it often is a blurry line.

3. Prerequisite Conditions as Success Indicators. We need to explain how the NGOs can qualitatively measure success (as well as quantitatively where appropriate) by looking at the preconditions they listed. We should also work them through the logical steps – (if the preconditions are correct and are satisfied, then the outcome should come about. And if the various outcomes come about, then success should be achieved.)

4. Planners vs. Searchers and Process vs. Project: The NGOs not only got this, but seemed to get very excited by it. It was as if someone finally verbalized what they were thinking. They view themselves as searchers engaged in a process of change. And they are most interested in (and excited by) donors who see themselves similarly – as searchers looking to support a process (rather than planners who sit back – lawyer jokes work well here! – and think of some strategy implemented through a series of preconceived projects).

Areas We Need to Improvement and Clarify

1. We need to make the process more linear. This does not mean we should go back to input-output type thinking, but more that we need to somehow use each step to build for the next one. We are trying to do that, but we are losing the groups at some point. I think it tends to be at the constituent voice consideration point. They often express confusion as to where this fits into the process and how it is different from mapping their ecosystem. It could also be that the eco-mapping exercise should be moved after the preconditions because it seems to stop the progress we are making up to that point. One possible revisions could be this: (1) epitaph exercise – aimed at a defining success; (2) map out the vision of success (all in terms of outcomes) – who is involved; how are they involved; how must their views change? what larger changes must happen; (3) breakdown the perquisite conditions that must occur to make those outcomes happen; (4) who or what could have an effect (positive and negative) on the achievement of those outcomes (this is the ecosystem); and (5) how can we measure success (including who to ask, what to ask, and how to record it).

2. We need to provide NGOs with a deeper understanding of what new philanthropy seeks and why these donors are willing to engage in a long term dialogue. This might be solved by providing or summarizing articles and surveys, as well as providing additional anecdotal support.

Other Observations

1. Sustainable development takes time and time to understand. It takes until the vision of success is mapped to get most NGOs to think about sustainable development instead of specific projects or development that is not sustainable.

2. Paternalism: Some NGOs view themselves believe that they may know solutions to the problems better than there beneficiaries. I don’t know if that is true or not (it could be sometimes) but that sort of paternal attitude without a willingness to engage in an active dialogue with beneficiaries could be dangerous.

3. Indian Companies are a huge resource. I am not sure if this is true for all companies, but I have know met with several Indian companies who are really excited by the Keystone framework and the idea of incorporating it into their grant making. These companies have not previously expressed interest in funding projects or organizations but the idea of being part of a process excites them. We should be able to partner them with some great NGOs.