The not-for-profit (or for-purpose) sector and its stakeholders (especially government) have been flirting with outcomes measurement for a long time. Sometimes it’s felt like a game of cat and mouse, or ‘will they, won’t they’. The sector’s interest and commitment to outcomes measurement within its organisations has wavered in line with what it’s perceived as ‘likelihood of threat’. This, actually, is not a great way to live, or operate, or manage.
So, can we, the sector, say now is the time? Because now IS the time! It really is! Performance measurement, measuring social outcomes, social impact, social bonds – all this stuff – it’s been around now for a REALLY LONG TIME. And as a sector, we STILL haven’t fully embraced it? Sometimes I find that so hard to believe, because it really would not be too hard for each and every organisation to measure ONE THING.
If I seem overly passionate about this, I am! I truly believe we need to measure in order to know that our services are making the difference we want them to make. We are constantly saying that ‘the system is broken’, or we lack funding, or we need new ways of getting funding – so let’s measure. Let’s show the difference we’re making. Or if we’re not making the difference we want, measuring gives us the opportunity to improve. There is no downside.
So I just wanted to share three of articles / resources that might fire up your interest, if you’re new to outcomes or measuring.
From Social Ventures Australia:
Managing to Outcomes: What, Why and How?
Finding the golden thread: A new approach to articulating program logic
From the Centre for Social Impact:
The Compass: Your Guide to Social Impact Measurement
If you have any more, please let me know in the comments!
I have been a huge fan of Christopher Paris’s work essentially since I first started in Quality Management way back when. His Eyesore 9001: A Smartass’s Guide to ISO 9001:2000 (now in 2008 version) basically saved my bacon when I was a Quality newbie. It was useful and applicable, and it told me that I wasn’t going crazy and that no matter how ISO tried to dress up 9001 as a standard for both ‘products and services’, it really, really wasn’t written for services at all (or by anyone who understood service organisations?), especially human services.
For ISO’s 2015 version of 9001, Paris hasn’t released an Eyesore – instead he went down the rabbit-hole and has written and published an entire book. This book is the most comprehensive drill-down of the ISO 9001 that you will ever read. How Paris made it out of his analysis alive and sane could be considered a miracle (or did he? Someone let me know), as he has really left out no detail – it’s pretty much a word-by-word breakdown of what is, in my opinion, the worst written anything of everything.
I have, since the beginning of my Quality career, been a huge critic of the use of ISO 9001 in human service organisations. I absolutely believe that organisations should have management systems in place, and should be concerned about the quality of their services and how they achieve quality for their clients. But it scares me that governments have written into service agreements that human service organisations must be certified to ISO 9001, and that some organisations are voluntarily opting-in (because they think it helps prove that they’re doing the right thing) when the standard just isn’t written in our language and is still very much “we make products” focused.
(Also, governments, there are so many human services quality standards you can now pick from that you could ask organisations and services to demonstrate compliance to (without needing them to be certified if the standard is from another state). Why waste time with ISO 9001?)
Paris’s book is amazing, right from his documentation of the history of how the standard comes about (which should be appalling to all of us quality professionals), to his breakdown of the clauses, to how we can apply it in our organisations – but (and this is not Paris’s deficiency, but rather my conclusion), his book only further convinces me of the unsuitability of ISO 9001 for our industry. That being said, if you do work in human services and you do need help figuring out ISO 9001, this is the best book you could buy to help you.
PS – this blog post is not sponsored, and I don’t know Christopher Paris and I’ve never done any work with Oxebridge. I just really respect what he is trying to do and I have genuinely found his work to be very helpful to me as I’ve tried to navigate the ISO 9001.
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