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NAVCA uses the services of David Burnby because he has a clear, concise style of writing, is a top class facilitator, has an expert understanding of third sector infrastructure and always delivers exactly what we ask of him.

Kevin Curley ,Chief Executive
NAVCA (National Association for Voluntary and Community Action)

Head in the Sand?

I’ve just completed a run of Outcome Based AccountabilityTM (OBATM) workshops attended by a very varied group of participants from a broad range of organisations. One workshop was aimed directly at the third sector and the participants’ reactions to the OBATM thinking process were as varied as the sector itself. Some recognised the framework’s potential to link outcomes to actions almost immediately; some didn’t get it at all. But there was one comment in particular from a participant that stuck with me. We were talking about managing performance, and I was explaining how it was important that any service provider was able to demonstrate that someone was better off as a result of their intervention. The gist of the offending comment was “Why should we waste someone’s time to collect data to prove what we know already –that what we do makes a difference”. Hmmm…

Seems to me that the voluntary sector is full of people all working very hard doing stuff that they feel makes a difference (why else would they do it?). But how can we demonstrate if anyone is any better off if we’re not disciplined about performance management? I’m not saying that if you can’t measure it, it’s not worth doing (old Chinese proverb says “you can’t make a pig fatter by weighing it”). But one thing’s for sure: if you want to use public money to fund an activity, unless you can demonstrate the benefit to service users, your ability to sustain that activity is going to be limited. Many voluntary organisations I know have been funded for years on the basis of goodwill. In the current economic climate, pressure on public funding will mean that only the fittest will survive. And the fittest won’t be the ones with the highest levels of goodwill. They will the organisations that can demonstrate they’re making a difference to people’s lives AND contributing towards the strategic objectives of the funding body.

OBATM provides a straight forward means of demonstrating impact by posing three basic questions: How much did we do? How well did we do it? Is anyone better off? Of course, there are resource implications in answering these questions, though as a wise person once said, “If you think knowledge is expensive, try ignorance for size”. For more information about OBATM, check out the outcomes pages on this site.

Do you agree? I’d love to hear from you…