Another criteria related issue we are discussing with our partners is how certain categories that people like to report often have a great risk of becoming harmful if they become the standard measurement tool.
For example, we are debating – and trying to convince a group that has sought our help and insight – that reporting on things like “students educated” and “children fed” should not become the thing they view as their main measures or what they should try to get donors to examine most closely. In our view both of these categories result in “teaching to the test” behavior. The more one focuses on “students educated” or “children fed” the more one tries to raise these scores because that is how the group measures success and how the donor does, as well. The problem is that NGOs should not operate like businesses and maximize certain scores. After all, the NGOs’ really aims are to reduce these scores, and unlike businesses, encourage their own extinction. The fact that more students are being fed or educated does not really mean an NGO is being more effective or successful. Of course, it does not indicate they are not, but what we are trying to convince this group – and others like it – is that reporting needs to focus on other types to measures, as well.
This where we think outcome measurement is especially important. It encourages a more holistic approach to reporting and learning and sees many criteria in concert so that when one evaluates any one criterion, one sees it in terms of the ultimate outcome that is being sought.