Conditions of Success: Shared Measurement - Bob Woodruff Foundation

Conditions of Success: Shared Measurement

As of November 1, 2020, National Veterans Intermediary (NVI) is called the Local Partner Network. Older content may reference our original name.

Knowing Our Impact, Showing Our Impact

In our last post, we discussed the first Collective Impact condition of success, Common Agenda. If you haven’t checked it out yet, hop on over to read it. The next condition of success is perhaps most challenging. It’s also perhaps the most crucial.

Measurement is what contributes to collaboratives’ ability to assess progress, evaluate processes, quantify results, and report impacts to stakeholders (notably, to funders and policy makers). Shared Measurement, then, is more complex and just as crucial. Once we’ve got a shared grasp on the problem(s) that our collaborative is working to solve, we need to ask ourselves an important question:

How will we know if we are succeeding?

The answer is Shared Measurement. Kania and Kramer’s foundational Stanford Social Innovation Review article emphasizes the critical nature of this condition, stating that “a common agenda is illusory without agreement on the ways success will be measured and reported.”

The authors identify essential capabilities of Shared Measurement Systems:

  • Collect credible, “quality” data
  • Measure and report results on a “short list” of agreed-upon performance indicators
  • Enable learning, course correction, and “evidence-based decision-making”

So how does a collaborative move from agreeing upon a Common Agenda to listing performance indicators and defining the data points that illuminate those indicators? Australian Collective Impact organization, Collaboration for Impact, has identified the footholds between Common Agenda and Shared Measurement: Developing Common Outcomes and Developing Common Indicators.

Developing Common Outcomes

Before we can select indicators by which to measure our progress, we must agree on the outcomes that our collaborative seeks to affect. Established collaboratives recommended the following guidelines based on their experience:

  • Cincinnati’s Strive partnership says to choose 15 or fewer outcomes to which your collaborative will be accountable within the field and scope of your agenda
  • Cincinnati’s Strive partnership also advises developing population-based outcomes that focus on community impacts and not programmatic impacts
  • The UK’s Improve It Framework suggests identifying themes in the collaborative’s work to distill outcomes
  • Scotland’s New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) recommends using a “theory of change approach” to help crystallize useful outcomes

In the Veteran space, there is considerable work already accomplished by The Bush Institute and the VA Center for Innovation to define outcomes to consider in shared measurement planning.

Developing Common Indicators

Based on the services provided by collaborative participants, organizations may have different contributions to the Common Outcomes. This will change what indicators they track within their organization, and which of those that they report to the collaborative. Cincinnati’s Strive Partnership has some great lessons learned on this front:

  • Indicators should be valid measures of outcomes related to your agenda
  • Data collected on indicators needs to come from a trusted source
  • Indicators should be easy for all stakeholders to understand
  • Indicators must be “reasonably similar” across participants
  • Collaboratives should prioritize indicators that are “equivalent” across partners and “able to be compared”
  • Securing the data on indicators should be “affordable” and data should be available consistently

Current Status of our Local Partners

Our 2017 Ecosystem Data has helped us establish a baseline understanding of our collaboratives’ current status and potential needs.

Many of our 66 (and counting) Local Partners tell us that they need more complete, accurate, and timely data. As one community puts it, “With the right data, we would be able to make changes to workflow faster to improve efficiency and our overall ability to successfully assist Veterans with their needs.”

Another common Shared Measurement concern involves the methods of data collection and analysis. Communities are using a variety of technologies and methods to collect, organize, analyze, and sometimes share data.

NVI’s Role in the Shared Measurement Conversation

Within the body of research on Collective Impact, a recurring theme is that collaborative leaders should avoid a prescriptive approach to developing Shared Measures. We completely agree. Our role is to help shape the national dialogue on Share Measurement, not to prescribe these measures.  With stakeholder insights and community input, we envision measures providing a national lens and resulting national voice for both veteran outcomes and community collaboration:  

  • We are building a data strategy informed by communities and stakeholders; the shared measurements that we help collaboratives develop will inform policy and help advise agencies
  • We are giving communities a national platform to share successes and lessons learned, and amplifying the voices sharing best practices
  • We are improving communities’ access to resources and tools through our website and resource blog
  • We are helping communities to collectively define the numerators and denominators of their shared measurements
  • We are engaging Local Partners to help frame the national conversation around shared measurement in the Veteran space

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