Thinking out of the box in measuring results

By Nono Felix

COVID 19 has negated the gains in the global battle to reduce poverty and eliminate hunger for almost a century. This pandemic has laid waste not only massive resources, but also key processes of governments and nongovernment organizations (NGOs).

Governments and NGOs must take stock of everything impacted negatively or positively, if any. Then find out the best way forward to recover quickly and move on. But unlike in the past, it behooves governments and NGOs to be extra creative and innovative to survive and thrive. This time business as usual will bomb out.

The uncertainty brought about by Covid 19 requires a bolder approach to be on the road again. This includes development programs of governments and NGOs to improve the lives of the poor.

The above notwithstanding, this discourse is about how governments and NGOs measure results of completed development programs. A new approach adapted to new realities is then recommended. Measurement of program results is a key process and will remain a huge challenge. Accountability to the beneficiaries and donors has been the bane of governments and NGOs. Through the years, they have struggled in demonstrating outcomes and impacts or long term results.

In measuring program results, the international practice is governments and NGOs determine outputs (immediate results), outcomes (intermediate results), and impacts (long-term results). The methodologies are based on a logic model with or without preconditions. But in their application there are methodological issues, as well as questions on rigor and capacity. Thus, the lack of evidence and confidence in claiming success.

Given the above, it is time to think out of the box in the measurement of results of development programs of governments and NGOs. It is now a necessity not an option given the hard road ahead.

Governments and NGOs must have the evidence on their respective contributions to the progress towards the achievement of the SDGs.

Governments and NGOs will measure results through the lens of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the global development template. The SDGs have been contextualized and localized in almost all countries.

Specifically, governments and NGOs will determine the contribution of the programs to the progress towards the achievement of the SDGs not attribution of results to completed programs and projects. This will make straightforward monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and reduce its cost in governments and NGOs.

• adopt applicable indicators of the SDGs to formulate the program goals and objectives, and to track progress towards their achievement;

• tag the number of individuals/families benefited, budget spent, and outputs delivered of every completed program to the appropriate SDG/s.

The above will mean

• equating progress made in SDGs with the program benefits accruing to the target populations of governments and NGOs;

• dispensing with the measurement of outputs, outcomes, and impacts through a logic model; and

• utilizing secondary data from UN, national government, private groups, universities, and international bodies to bolster reports or discussion papers.

The author used to work for a foreign NGO as corporate planning, monitoring and evaluation manager for Asia.