From ‘why’ to ‘how’

Jeremy Nicholls & Peter Scholten

It is good to see that the debate is shifting away from ‘performance measurement is impossible’ (Alliance special feature on Measuring impact, December 2007) and that there is now wide acceptance of the value of measuring. It is good to see that most practitioners are thinking about outcomes and impacts, instead of ‘outputs’. So that’s the good part.

But the Alliance issue leaves me a little bit disappointed: concluding that ‘we need key performance indicators’ and ‘time and money’, that we need to be ‘clear about added value and the precise change we want to make in society’… that’s all not very new or helpful.
Last November the European Venture Philanthropy Association organized a meeting on Performance Measurement and Social Impact Assessment. The main – and always recurring – questions were not about the ‘why’ any more but about ‘how’.

If you Google ‘Performance Measurement’, you get millions of hits. Hundreds of tools and theories. But you don’t find out what tool is applicable in what specific situations, how to select, what are the costs (short-term/long-term), ease of use, the benefits, quantitative and/or qualitative, whether they burden the investee with more (different) reporting systems, how they align investor and investee needs, etc, and whether you can compare results between the different tools.

Just mentioning that we need them is not enough any more. You gave us five examples; we could easily provide you with a hundred more. Sharing theories is nice; sharing practice would be better.

In 2008 we should get to the next level: from ‘raising awareness’ to becoming clear, easy to use, and just practical. From ‘why’ to ‘how’.

Jeremy Nicholls
Independent consultant, UK

Peter Scholten
Scholten & Franssen, Netherlands

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