GlobalGiving has a modest budget and team of around 25 people, all in one room in Washington, DC, but we face challenges similar to those of the largest of institutions involved in philanthropy and international development. One of the biggest is assessing the impact of what we are doing. With over 1,000 organizations implementing small projects in over 100 countries, it is impractical for our team to study each project’s impact in scientific detail.
Beyond easy measures of donation flow and reporting compliance, how do we know whether the marketplace we’ve built actually accomplishes something of substance in the world? Which organizations are doing great, and which are struggling? How can we celebrate the former and assist the latter? Does all the work we do in cooperation with our on-the-ground partners all add up to something? Are we sparking and fostering innovation? Are the organizations participating in the GlobalGiving marketplace different from other organizations in positive ways?
In cooperation with Rockefeller Foundation, Cognitive Edge, and independent consultant Irene Guijt, GlobalGiving has found an promising way to tackle this problem. In Kenya, we launched the GlobalGiving Storytelling Project, which asked people to tell stories about community projects and the individuals, organizations, and government entities working to make change happen. We gathered 2,700 usable stories from individuals primarily in Nairobi and the Rift Valley.
Using the SenseMaker® methodology of capturing people’s stories and asking those people to “tag” their own stories, we are able to see how thousands of stories relate to each other. We can visualize patterns in the stories that help us understand how people see organizations working in their communities. Our next step is to make this method available more widely, providing a toolkit that helps our project leaders learn more about how people see them by launching their own storytelling projects. We want this to be a useful way for GlobalGiving, our partner organizations, and beneficiaries to .
This pilot has huge promise, not just for GlobalGiving but for the philanthropic and development sectors as a whole. Much has been written about how the lack of quick feedback hinders development work. See Owen Barder’s recent blog post. Like marketers of soda or electronic gadgets, how can funders of development initiatives quickly measure performance and make real-time adjustments to meet real needs in efficient ways? Our pilot is a promising way of establishing meaningful feedback to power this type of real-time learning .
Marc Maxson, GlobalGiving’s chief feedback loop instigator and impact assessment innovator, has pulled together online resources that show how our pilot worked and what we’ve learned. We will add further resources as our approach evolves. Our next step is to expand our work in Kenya and to begin working with organizations in Uganda and Tanzania.
Are you looking for a way to learn more about how people view your work? Are you struggling to find an effective and inexpensive way to evaluate your impact? Please contact Marc (firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn more about getting involved.