The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) is a network of organizations that work to foster entrepreneurship in emerging markets. As an ANDE member, Linked Foundation has benefitted greatly from the connections and resources the network provides, particularly in our recent work on the BOSI pilot program in Mexico. Last week I had the opportunity to attend and present at ANDE’s Metrics From the Ground Up conference in Washington D.C.
The theme this year was “impact data in action” and for me this translated to thinking critically about what indicators you really need to measure in a given program (and what you don’t), and when and how to do it most efficiently in order to make the best use of data. In my session, I talked about using mixed methods to answer operational and programmatic questions and to improve program design. I used the TISA study we conducted in 2013 as an example to show how useful this kind of research can be to make sure you have a high-performing program before you try to measure its impact.
One thing I appreciated most was that the sessions were technical and deep. All of the sessions seemed to discuss very tangible elements and dive deep in to the subjects, so the audience left with clear takeaways and actionable ideas. For example, I attended a workshop on visualizing data in which I learned new Excel charts and graph tricks, and there was a GIS session in which I learned about new resources, such as the location communication tool what3words. Even the opening plenary discussion presented concrete principles to be used in a “lean and right sized” evaluation design.
I also felt in my element. As a metrics person that works within organizations, it can feel at times like you’re struggling to figure out how to answer complex questions all alone. It was great to connect with my counterparts working on the same issues in different organizations that understand what you’re working on and can relate to the challenges. I met people who I can now reach out to when I need a brain to pick or to bounce ideas.
One of the biggest questions (that never gets answered) is always “how do we measure impact – not just number of people/services/etc. – in a way that isn’t too resource intensive and difficult?” I think we’re mostly still all waiting for the perfect answer to that question. But it’s great to discuss it with people who understand why the question is so difficult to answer, but who are trying to answer it anyway.
-Anna De La Cruz, Senior Advisor Linked Foundation