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9 Countries Measuring Transformation

By Steve Nelson

As we prepare for the holiday season, we are counting down our 12 Days of Christmas - celebrating Opportunity's work around the world this year. 

Peter Drucker said, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it.”  It is a simple concept. 

Simple, yet you can spend a lifetime trying to understand the wisdom behind it.  In microfinance, academics have for years attempted to define the impact on clients beyond the loan statistics.  While the life change we seek to influence in pursuit of our mission seems self-evident, it isn’t easy to measure.

Good news is on the way.  Our Social Performance Management Initiative (SPM) has now been rolled out in 9 countries.  Our vision is to measure client outcomes made possible through consistent data collection and analysis.  In the not too distant future, mobile phones will be used to collect the information.  The constant flow of data will allow us to improve and reflect upon the social change we hope to see as a result of what we do. 

As we generate more and more data, we will draw key insights about the entrepreneurs with whom we partner with.  Because we want to impact poverty, moving beyond the financial metrics is necessary.  Yet we find every piece of data we collect is helpful in telling the story, even the financial metrics we have been tracking for years. 

In addition to ongoing data collection efforts, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business will help us gain greater insight alongside our SPM data collection.  If this three-year research project proves successful, we’ll be able to understand more in depth about the systematic information we collect.  The partnership is twice as exciting because of the caliber of institution we are working with.

We believe in the importance of proving positive outcomes.  All of us involved in microfinance want to know the extent to which our efforts truly impact lives. By implementing SPM, our goal will be to determine the extent of impact we are having.  SPM will measure job impact, how productive our clients are becoming, and if we’re transforming people’s lives personally, economically, spiritually and socially.

A client who came to our office one day to make a loan repayment told us, “it wasn’t about the money, but the dignity of it.”  She was proud to provide for her family.  The pride she displayed was real.  Our new challenge is to measure it, and manage to further unlock the untapped potential of our clients.

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