As a grant writer making the case for additional funding, I have to find ways convince funders that their dollars will be well spent. They want to know the outcomes of previous projects, and they want us to design outcome measurement systems for the proposed project.
This Stanford Social Innovation Review article on outcomes raises significant drawbacks to this focus.
Hooray! Hooray! I'd much rather see us focus on a strong system for continuously improving our programs as we implement. The impact of our programs will be a mystery for many years to come.
Stanford Social Innovation Review : Articles : Drowning in Data (August 30, 2006):Pass this article on to anyone requesting or granting money for non-profit projects. It's important!
"For example, poor black children who enrolled in the High/Scope Perry Preschool intervention in Ypsilanti, Mich., in 1962 were not faring much better than their control group counterparts several years after they left the program, at ages 7 and 8.
"But some 40 years later, the High/Scope Perry graduates are more likely to have earned college degrees, have a job, own a home, own a car, have a savings account, be married, and have raised their own kids, reports David L. Kirp in The New York Times Magazine. They are also less likely to have been on welfare, to have been arrested, or to have been sentenced to prison.4
"Funders who might have decided to pull the plug on the High/Scope Perry program, based on early data, would have killed a program that has yielded over $12 on every $1 invested.5"