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Measurement Shouldn’t be a Burden

This is an exciting time at the Ontario Trillium Foundation. We’re in the throes of finalizing what ReDesign2015 will look like. This is the first overhaul to our granting framework in more than a decade, and organizational change is always challenging.

As we move towards the launch of ReDesign2015, we know that we want to move the pendulum so that measurement and evaluation contribute to a shared goal of learning and continuous improvement. And not just for us at the Foundation, but for grantees and the nonprofit sector as a whole. That’s why we were so excited to partner with the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, to launch the first ever large-scale examination of wellbeing in Ontario. Shared measurement systems, like the Canadian Index Wellbeing, provide a clear and concrete, shared understanding of what our common goals are.

At OTF, our mission is to “build healthy and vibrant communities.” It’s a mandate that’s both broad and vague – but with the help of the CIW, a “healthy and vibrant community” comes into focus. With the help of the CIW, the broader nonprofit sector can better track the extent our joint efforts are getting us there. A clear measurement metric can also help us to identify ways that we can improve our performance for better results.

As valuable as shared measurement is – monitoring and evaluation is often seen as a burden.  I have been on both sides of the fence. In my previous role in community health services, I was a grantee, and responsible for the measurement of project outcomes. Now at OTF, we have to do both: report to our funder, the government, but also ask our grantees to report to us.

How can we make sure that measurement isn’t a burden?

How can we make sure that metrics aren’t arbitrary indicators of progress? Well, we’re going to need to work together to make sure that what we measure counts.  That means agreeing on shared goals, outcomes and timelines. It means a stronger understanding of relationships, and the possibilities to leverage various strengths and assets. We also need to build in the ability to course correct when necessary.

At OTF, we are determined to build a shared responsibility through shared measurement. We share the responsibility for community impact while each party brings different skills and assets to the table – as funders, partners, advocates, front line workers and volunteers. Shared measurement (and the systems built to track the progress and demonstrate impact) ultimately help us reach our common goals together.

While it’s intuitive to say that collective impact is a worthy goal, we know that achievements are dependent on shared measurement. That’s why we want to work with partners in government, the nonprofit sector and the private sector – and grantees too – to learn what works and what doesn’t, as we move towards communities that are healthier and more vibrant.

OTF will be sharing this new framework at ONN Conference 2014, as Dan Wilson, our Director of Strategy and Performance, speaks to how the Foundation’s drive to measure impact is informing their new granting framework.

About the author

Andrea Cohen Barrack is the CEO of the Ontario Trillium Foundation.



Thanks to Community Knowledge Exchange (CKX) for sharing this article!


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