Black Dog Institute & Collective Action consultancy share their four tips for a successful measurement program.
As Australia’s only medical research institute solely dedicated to investigating mental health, data-driven decisions are built into the philosophy of the Black Dog Institute. Andrea Fogarty, who is part of the Program Evaluation team at the Institute makes sure that products proven in research remain effective in real life. With a highly effective outcomes measurement program in place, we picked Andrea’s brain about how to develop a sustainable and successful measurement program.
If you want your findings to be rigorous and trustworthy, then you need to have really well-designed evaluation plans.
When you invest in something new - whether that’s a staff member, technology or a product - adequate training is at the core of its success. And it’s the same when it comes to your outcomes measurement program.
“It is absolutely worth doing some training about evaluation methodologies,” Andrea says. “If you want your findings to be rigorous and trustworthy, then you need to have really well-designed evaluation plans.”
Melissa Russell, research associate at Collective Action, a social impact consultancy agrees.
“Without the right training, you run the risk of asking the wrong questions and collecting data that isn’t usable.”
Making sure your people understand your measurement framework is vital, as is knowing how to maintain the process over time.
“Organizations usually can’t afford to hire an in-house evaluation role. And individuals rarely have time to monitor the process by themselves. So we recommend training all staff, not just one person to make the program sustainable over the long term.”
A clear plan or framework will make sure you’re not going into measurement blind. And not wasting valuable data, resources and time - which is a common mistake organizations make. Andrea recommends consulting stakeholders from the beginning and developing a clear scope.
“Define what's inside the frame of your evaluation and what's not assessable in your evaluation plan. Because there's nothing worse than being midway through data collection and realizing you're not collecting the data you need to answer the questions you're asking.”
Or discovering that a really important stakeholder has unclear expectations about what impact can be measured with the data that you're collecting. A clear plan can help you eliminate these scenarios by defining:
Melissa says a robust framework can also help you understand the areas where you can confidently say you have an impact in.
Technology like Socialsuite eliminates the traditionally slow and manual process of collecting data. It also reduces the potential for error, creates consistency and makes the entire measurement process fast and seamless.
“The great thing about technology is once you set it up, it's ongoing and maintains itself to a certain degree. And you have all the data and reports at your fingertips,” says Melissa.
For the Black Dog Institute, Socialsuite has been a game changer, saving Andrea days and days when matching data sets. But she also says online surveys through the platform have allowed the organization to continue collecting data, even through the pandemic.
While technology like Socialsuite can streamline and automate the measurement process, Andrea says you shouldn’t fall into the trap of a set and forget mentality.
“You have to actively manage and be across the process. What are the response rates? Are people sending their emails? If there is a group that is not responding at the same rate as other groups, do you need to investigate why? Is there an organization whose junk mail filter is not letting emails through?”
Melissa couldn’t agree more.
“Your measurement program has to be a part of every team’s day-to-day work, embedded as a core part of the organization. There's no shortcut to that.”
Setting up your outcomes measurement program correctly takes time and resources, but Andrea is confident it’s worth it.
“If you do all that upfront, the things you find and the confidence you have at the end of data collection is invaluable.”