tape measure

The future of measurement and evaluation


NPC’s Anne Kazimirski talks about this research. Video by Faculti

Good measurement and evaluation is key to increasing the effectiveness of the social sector. Without it we have little idea about the impact we are having: we are rudderless, relying on anecdote and instinct. With it we can make good strategic decisions to really deliver for our missions and causes. And this is especially important today given reduced funding and growing social need, where we need to achieve more with less.

Having developed initially in the public sector, measurement and evaluation is now growing in importance within the voluntary sector as previous work by NPC has shown. More recently social investment has brought private sector investing principles into the arena of impact measurement: the focus on real-time feedback is spreading; standardised measures are gaining a foothold; and there is growing interest in measuring the social impact of commercial activities.

But for many, the words ‘measurement‘ and ‘evaluation’ spell despair and are met with a deep sigh. Complicated, jargon-filled, top down, box-ticking, funder-demanded, taking ages and very expensive are just some of the concerns and objections people have.

And yet things are changing, as we show in our recent report Global innovations in measurement and evaluation. We see rapid advances in the tools available, many of them technology enabled. As datasets multiply and evidence bases are built, we can share, manage and use data in new ways. Measurement can be done in real-time, helping us to steer our ship. Meanwhile there is a move for organisations to focus accountability, and therefore measurement, more squarely on service users. All this brings measurement and evaluation closer to what NPC has always wanted it be: easier to use and more useful for helping organisations move forward.

In the report, we outline these developments and explore their implications for impact measurement and evaluation practice. While we wrote it very much with charities in mind, this report is also relevant to the public sector—both service deliverers and commissioners—and to the private sector.

We know charitable organisations vary enormously in size, resources, skills and scope, and not every organisation could or should adopt every one of these innovations. But we seek to inform and inspire: to show charities what is possible and so to help them think a little bigger, aim a little higher. Because the better our measurement and evaluation practice, the more we will learn about how to improve social interventions, and the more social good we can achieve.

Download Global innovations in measurement and evaluation.