Measuring social entrepreneurial activities

Posted: August 18, 2010 in Bubba posts

I am constantly encouraging nonprofits to pay more attention to data because each organization sits on an incredible amount of useful information. The problem is that few agencies have figured out a way to capture and analyze this information. But how do you measure entrepreneurial activities? Mark Kramer asks this question from a funder perspective and concludes:

“In short, without more rigorous research, one cannot know that the new idea just discovered is actually a more effective approach to a given problem than other methods that may have been tried. Collecting the practical information needed for immediate management decision-making is essential, but so is the codification of that knowledge so that more general principles can be discovered and learnings can be shared more widely. If results are not tracked consistently and systematically, it will be very hard to improve over time.”

Still, how and who interprets this information. I often come across foundations with highly elaborate outcome measures and accountability systems in place only to find that the data is never used for anything. Why? We don’t have time, resources or competence are among the most common answers. Measuring as an end itself, no wonder certain individuals are questioning the purpose and legitimacy of foundations. Another observation I’ve made is that the person (if any) in charge of data organizing and data cleaning is often hidden away in some windowless room and not easy to access for anyone.



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