By now you will be getting the idea that I believe that monitoring is or should be part of the core functions of any NGO. You will also have a clear sense of the importance I attach to the route that data and information travels through an organisation.
But some of you will be grumbling that all of this work doesn’t actually achieve anything and even gets in the way of ‘doing good’. You may even have come up against this argument from trustees and senior managers.
Quite simply put: if you don’t know what your results are and you cannot analyse those results, how do you know that what you are doing is having any impact and making a difference? And if you don’t know that, how do you know what future strategy to pursue in the best interests of your beneficiaries?
In the private sector the talk is often about results and the bottom line: will your results improve your profit or increase your losses. Where the private sector has the profit motive, civil society has the social impact motive. That’s what we are doing people. Or should be doing. Our work is all about creating social change or social impact and the only way that we know that we have achieved what we set out to do is by our results. So measuring our activities and focusing on results is the best way to know whether we are being successful.
Of course at the moment we are also in a results-driven funding period where donors and funders are constantly asking for results that can be quantified. Sometimes this pressure can be useful in helping to get systems and processes improved. But NGOs must not be afraid of having challenging conversations with funders to ensure that a grant or loan is not only fulfilling the donor’s requirements, but also the NGO’s. And, you guessed it, you can only have that conversation if you have the evidence to back up your argument and you are clear on your future strategy and how the donor fits into that and how you fit into their strategy.
Monitoring, analysing and understanding your results is an extension of what you do in the field and the important differences that you work so hard to it in place in people’s lives. You can’t do one without the other.
Have you ever come up against this argument? How did you respond? Do you think your NGO is too focused on results, or not enough? You are an important part of the conversation and I always want to know what you think.