Monitoring and evaluation at the middle of the diamond

A business model shouldn't remain theoretical; if it's to be successful, it's costs, production and impact must be accurately measured. This applies to models meant to work at the middle of the economic diamond -- with emerging consumers worldwide -- as much as with new digital business models deployed in developed economies.

I enjoyed a recent NextBillion piece on measurement and evaluation because it reminds us that you need to take the time to develop the right metrics in order to get the most value from them.  In it, Heather Esper, program manager of impact assessment at the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan, reviews nine tips for M&E for "base of the pyramid" business models. These include:

  1. Metrics are essential to inform decision-making, understand impact, monitor progress toward targets and identify areas of opportunity.
  2. Many professionals now accept all assessment types (impact, process, performance, etc.) and methods (qualitative and quantitative) and use a range of these to incorporate multiple perspectives and types of indicators depending on their organizational needs and budget.
  3. Using assessment to create value works best when it is driven by the business or organization being assessed, as it ensures reporting is relative and in line with organizational goals.  
  4. Evolve with your metrics – as you grow and your metrics grow, they can become more robust and complex. Think big, start small. Focus on collecting data to answer priority questions and build your data collection from there.
  5. Be clear in the goals of data collection and the value you expect to extract from that data so that focus and clarity is maintained as you acquire data and use it.
  6. Assess only what you will use and what will bring value to the organization. This means you should have the capabilities to analyze the data, and be able to share the findings in a way that resonates with different audiences. This is a critical component to reaping the most value from assessment.
  7. Measure what you can actually affect – don’t measure for the sake of measuring, but ensure you’re measuring with good reason and in an area in which you can intervene. Having a theory of change can guide you in what to collect and what you don’t need to collect.
  8. Collected information can be valuable to internal and external organizations (data collected for a particular purpose can also be used to create value in other ways).
  9. Pay special attention to opportunities to deliver value to the research subjects through data collection. Do not merely extract data.

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-- Yan Toh


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