Building meaningful frameworks for measuring diverse projects contributing to common outcomes requires a clarity and simplicity that is truly challenging to achieve.  This has been my focus this year for a few programs at the provincial scale. 

Communities in rural and urban areas have distinct challenges, and there are different cultures in different regions. This influences the nature of issues being addressed, as well as the kinds of approaches needed to successfully build community and effect change.  “Shared measurement” rolls off the tongue, but finding ways to structure it among diverse organizations in a wide range of communities takes a thoughtful approach.

I’ve found a few things that help:

1.       Aligning common measures at the right level.  Common measures can’t be so specific that there can be no comparison, nor so broad that there is no longer any meaning.

2.       Focusing on a small number of common quantitative metrics that are feasible and meaningful for all parties to collect.  These may look more like outputs than outcomes, but they can be rolled up better than the most perfect metrics that only 20% can reasonably collect.

3.       Building in a process for organizations to gather data about their specificity.  What are they experiencing in their community?  What are the particular approaches they take, and in what context?  This starts to give meaning to the metrics- allowing us to see how the overall outcomes are working, and why.

This is all easier said than done, but I am heartened but the responses from groups once they see their results presented as shared outcomes- it starts to feel powerful.  Qualitative data and stories that illustrate local experiences in a particular context add depth of meaning.  Taken as a whole, this can be a valuable way of demonstrating that our differences are what makes us effective in a variety of settings, and contributing to common outcomes makes us effective at scale.