Non-profits seem sceptical towards outcome-based indicators of how effective different initiatives and projects are. Is this because they are afraid of what “ordinary people” would think and do if they had this information? And if so, could such a worry be rational?
The author, Ole Rogeberg, poses the question very seriously without passing judgment:
Personally, I hope (and want to believe) that outcome-based indicators would make the connection between giving and accomplishing stronger, that people would not just give in order to “do a good deed” but also start giving to “have an impact on malnutrition” or “reduce malaria” etc. But other people might believe that the consequences would be different. But other people might believe that the consequences would be different. Two possible worries that immediately come to mind:
- Myopic funding: The more concrete, short-term and certain a program was according to its outcome indicator, the more funding it might receive. This might make it easy to get funding for vaccines and malaria nets, but hard to get funding for investments and development in health infrastructure, education, human rights work with women, etc.
- Over-focused funding: Some measures may catch the public’s interest far more than others (“go viral”), and this might lead to large shares of funds going to these areas – not because the need is the largest or the impact the greatest, but simply because the indicator is catchy in some way.
Even if you personally don’t see the problem – how can we answer this fear and develop indicators that don’t have excessive (largely unintended) negative consequences?
Important questions. Change is difficult and often has unintended consequences. Many, many people are resistant to my calls for more measurement and analysis of nonprofit outcomes. How can we handle their concerns? Or might their concerns be right?
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