One of the best things about my work is being able to see how organisations are improving the way they work, what they work on, who they work with and where they work – to make sure that they are having the best possible social impact.
How do I know this? Well that’s down to the evaluation tools and processes that I use. Organisations that are lucky enough to have funding to develop their own capacity often struggle to tell this story in a meaningful way that takes account of the funder’s reporting needs and their own learning needs.That’s where Contribution Analysis and Process Tracing come in. These two case study approaches can unpick complex issues and stories and identify where change can be attributed to.
Along the way organisations often find that they have to think differently about their work and themselves in order to answer the questions posed by assessors and evaluators using Contribution Analysis and Process Tracing. This can be an exciting process where organisations can learn a great deal about themselves and the work that they are doing. Used correctly, these methodologies can help organisations grow and get better at what they do.
I have been lucky enough to work on projects for the past two years now that allow me to use both methodologies and to do deep dives into organisations that have strategic funding and have used it in different ways to get better at what they do.
And here is what I’ve learned about successful organisations:
- They have a long-term strategic focus that they don’t deviate from;
- They say no (to opportunities and funders) as much if not more than they say yes;
- They are close to their beneficiaries – very close;
- They listen to feedback from stakeholders all the time, not just during programme design or reporting cycles;
- They are lean: structured for function and not thematic work area, with a small management hierarchy (if much management at all); and
- They are flexible: untied to complex logframes that scrutinise stuff that doesn’t mean anything.
Many organisations are just too scared to change or to embrace what they think is an impossible way of working. I have though had the enormous privilege of work with organisations that are embracing some or all of these principles and are at different levels of development, and they have demonstrated that it is possible to do great development work and become a better organisation in the process.
So, what is stopping you and your organisation? Eventually you will run out of reasons and excuses and be left with one key question: do you want to make the best possible difference to the world? If your answer is “Yes” (and I bet that it is), then it’s time to change.
What are the barriers that you can see to changing the way you work? What are the benefits? What help do you think you need to do this?