Beyond impact

Well informed and experienced authors, such as those below, argue that ‘impact’ is not an appropriate concept for managing performance in NGOs.

Impact evaluations can play an important role in testing and shaping NGOs’ overall strategies. They should be allocated a proportionate amount of the resources available for measurement.

… the results of impact assessment mechanisms are insufficient on their own to make sensible decisions about resource allocation to projects or organisations. There are other criteria, notably understanding of context; the ability to listen, learn, adapt and innovate; management capacity; and the ability to work with others and communicate learning.”  Chris Roche, 1999

Our … argument is that it is not feasible, or even desirable, for all organizations to develop metrics at all levels on the logic chain.”

“… measuring impacts makes sense under a severely limited set of circumstances …”  Alnoor Ebrahim & Kasturi Rangan, 2010

One way in which the necessity of aid has been understood is that ‘aid is necessary for development’ … . One of the main conclusions to be drawn from a dispassionate review of the evidence is that this is not true… . Development, growth and poverty reduction do take place without recourse to aid. … Thus the central question in aid discourse is not ‘Does aid work?’, but rather ‘How can aid to poor countries be made effective?”  Roger Riddell, 2007

Outcomes often occur a long way downstream and may not take the form anticipated. Outcomes depend on responsiveness to context specific factors, creating diversity across initiatives. The value and sustainability of outcomes usually depend on the depth and breadth of involvement by many stakeholders. These characteristics make it difficult for external agencies: (a) to identify and attribute specific outcomes to specific components of their programs; and (b) to aggregate and compare results across initiatives.”

As they are currently applied, the concepts of ‘attribution’ and ‘impact’ represent threats to learning from evaluations of development efforts.

… the search for impact has become an accepted and dominant part of the development discourse. I would argue, however, that when donors and their recipients try to be accountable for achieving impact, they are severely limiting their potential for understanding how and why impact occurs. The drive to claim credit interferes with the creation of knowledge.”  Terry Smutylo, 2001

5 Responses

  1. […] different to focusing on ‘impact’, defined as long term social change. This website argues that ‘impact’ is not a reliable guide for maximising NGOs’ results. Some comments about ‘impact’ are made in boxes on other […]

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