We all know that in order to find out if things are really working, we have to measure, monitor and, of course, set targets. But how does this all work when we’re trying to deliver services for disadvantaged groups or communities?
Many organizations believe that just because you’re socially-driven, nothing needs to change (i.e. you just treat it like a business and ‘hit those targets’). I, on the other hand, believe that things are very different. Even though I’m a strong believer in the principal that social organizations should treat their organizations professionally (and in many cases, be much more businesslike) and that they should, if possible, aim to become financially sustainable, I don’t believe that the people that we serve need to suffer or be served poorly because of this.
The core question that needs to be asked is: Are you trying to serve or support a real person or are you trying to hit a ‘number’? And, what’s most important to you – People or Targets?
Unfortunately, oh so often, organizations forget that they are ultimately there to serve the needs of real people. I fully understand that all organizations need to generate funds to maintain their operations but I think that if they are truly going to serve the best interests of their clients, sooner of later they must be willing to stand up and fight for the rights of those that they’re trying to serve.
In my experience, it’s very common for funders (and I’m not just talking about Government and Public Sector Organizations here) to come up with a budget for a program and then somewhat miraculously come up with a ‘target number’ of people that need to be supported by that budget. All of this is done, of course, with very little input from the ‘people on the ground’, who’ll actually be delivering the program. The trouble is that often, not only are these ‘phantom numbers’ totally unrealistic but frequently these targets can only be reached if the quality of the support given to end-users is significantly reduced.
This numbers-driven (rather than impact-driven) mentality, frequently gets passed down the ‘delivery pipeline’ and, rather predictably, leads to every organization that’s involved in the management and delivery of the project, prioritizing numbers and targets over the needs of the real people that they’re there to serve.
I have seen, first-hand, organizations move all of their highly effective face-to-face client support to a totally infective phone based ‘light-touch’ system, just so that they could achieve more ‘numbers’. I’ve seen essential local client support services replaced by distant ‘bulk services’ that clients hated and I’ve seen large-scale national programs replaced with untested, weak, trial programs, which on paper look good but in reality have no chance of working.
In conclusion, I’d say “Don’t sell out!” If you think that targets are too high for good quality service delivery, push back at those who have set them. If you have the choice, deliver bigger impact rather than bigger numbers. And if you’re ever in doubt about hitting a target or serving your customer, remember that People Should Always Come First!
Jon Yon – Fortoa Founder and CEO