Measuring results: the demand-side revolution

Upside down world

An excellent TV show this week followed a British midwife who worked for a fortnight in a Liberian hospital. The first thing she did was turn on two shiny new incubators that UNICEF had provided. They hadn’t trained the staff how to use them.

My wife was shocked: how could such expensive kit be provided without training? After years in aid, I wasn’t so surprised. It’s a familiar story, coming down to the incentives that shape how aid agencies actually run projects. Continue reading

Managing performance in NGOs

Policy makers need simple ideas; but Tom chose the wrong one.

In the 2007 film ‘Lions for Lambs’, Tom Cruise plays a slick US senator pushing new military tactics in Afghanistan. Meryl Streep is a sceptical journalist. At a central moment, he stands over her and asks: “Do you want a win in the war on terror?  Yes or no?”

It’s impossible to answer. The idea of ‘war’ gets people thinking the wrong way about tackling terror – setting up the idea of military conflict and battlefield victory. The idea is good for winning public support and making complex social issues seem simple. But it’s bad for doing much about them.

In the same way, the idea of ‘impact’ is not much use for managing the performance of NGOs or holding them to account. Continue reading