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Discussing Social Impact Assessment

The head of an important international development research agency came my office today and remarked that he thought the fascination with metrics and measurement in philanthropy had peaked some time ago and we were now approaching a happy medium.  What do you think?

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I sure hope he is wrong because the medium I think we are in is toxic, particularly if you are among those billions whose views what is being counted are largely unheard.
David know of what he speaks and has been fighting the fight for some time now to make sure that grassroots' voices have a say in what should be measured. Maybe that is the real question: not what should be measured, but who gets a say in making that decision.,
Thanks Brad. Yes, at Keystone we like to ask the question, "Who Counts?" -- meaning both who matter and who does the counting. And our answer is that you can't really know what you have done for someone until you ask them. Simple idea, really, but so perplexing that it remains peripheral to most measurement practice. Now why is that?
A number of the tools in the TRASI database come from Keystone, so nonprofits and foundations who are not yet familiar with these techniques for engaging "constituent voice" will be able to see how they compare with others. When I read David's comment I was reminded of a different science--marketing. How do you know what consumers want until you ask them?
Absolutely! The now 50 year-old subset of the market research world known commonly as "customer satisfaction" has been an important analogue for our work to promote constituency voice in philanthropy and social change. One interesting thing I learned from Jamey Power, son of customer satisfaction industry pioneer J. David Power, is that the customer satisfaction industry was build on a social movement -- the consumer rights movement. It got its big impetus from sweeping Kennedy Administration legislation in 1962 to "protect the consumer interest".

It is an interesting thought experiment to juxtapose something we all pretty much take for granted -- "consumer rights" -- with the notion of "aid/philanthropy beneficiary rights". What are the rights of those meant to benefit from aid and philanthropy? The four Kennedy era consumer rights were:
- right to safety,
- right to be informed,
- right to choose ("to be assured, wherever possible, of access to a variety of services and products, and an assurance of satisfactory quality and service at a fair price"); and
- right to be heard.

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