This is the first in a three part series of posts that will explore the key ingredients for sustaining an organization’s evaluation capacity.
As a part of our work studying transformational initiatives, we recently had an opportunity to speak with Geoffrey Canada, President and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), about his organization’s efforts to break the cycle of poverty in Harlem.
We were eager to learn how HCZ has managed to adapt, grow, and ultimately sustain its programs over the long term. There have undoubtedly been many keys to HCZ’s success, but Geoffrey was quick to stress one factor: Using data to drive impact is critical to achieving HCZ’s short-term and long-term goals.
Tracking performance metrics and learning from the data is vital to improving your organization’s impact. Our experience has also taught us that a strong commitment to evaluation boosts your ability to sustain long-lasting and relevant social impact.
Why? We’ve learned a few key lessons:
- Continually measuring outcomes and results enables you to make data-driven decisions that, in turn, help your organization adapt to changing environments, improve programs and grow your impact.
- Data eases your organization’s ability to demonstrate and communicate your impact to stakeholders – your staff, funders, community partners, beneficiaries and others.
- Evaluation enhances your ability to engage your stakeholders who increasingly value results.
Measuring and learning from your outcomes contributes to a virtuous cycle of growing your impact. Our examination of transformation initiatives of all kinds – from the fight to end malaria to Denver’s movement to end homelessness – underscores the importance of evaluation in defining what success looks like, understanding whether you’re making progress, and communicating your results to your stakeholders.
That strong evaluation capacity can support your organization’s sustainability is not merely theory. A report sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that, of 120 organizations funded by the Foundation, 50% believed that evaluation was critical to securing subsequent funding and promoting their overall sustainability.
Understanding the importance of evaluation to organizational sustainability still leaves us with an essential question: How can you build and sustain your organization’s evaluation capacity?
We will explore this question in the next post in our series but, in the meantime, please share your thoughts below!