Office Discussions: How Do We Prove Our Impact


How do we prove (and communicate about) our impact?


Miriam and Edmond (Max Foundation board members), and Kate and Bram celebrate the kick-off meeting

We strive for effectiveness, and value for money, but how do we measure it?

Recently the board has raised the topic of impact. How can we really prove our claim of helping children in the most effective way? How can we communicate clearly and simply, through one key performance indicator (KPI) showing how many children’s lives we have improved, and how much it cost per child?

Board members Edmond and Miriam volunteered to work with Max Foundation staff on this, to really define why we want to do this, how, and for what. We expect we might need external help to gather the right evidence, to analyse it, or to convince others, but we need to have a better idea of what we want to achieve with it first.

Design Thinking Diamonds

We met for the first time in a kick-off meeting last Wednesday, August 8th in Amsterdam. Edmond went through a similar process with the Dutch company he cofounded, Independer, and they documented it publicly on their website through blogs. We still need to decide whether we want to do that, but what we did agree upon is that we want to be transparent internally, and that’s why we are sharing this blog.

Why has this come up? Because we say we want to be a game-changer in the sector, and because we have a relatively new board with new perspectives. Our board chair Joost van der Meent, from Accenture, is always asking how we can position ourselves as a leader? For him a very important aspect is recognition – for example winning an award. For that, we need evidence of our impact and effectiveness. Our founders Stephen and Joke were inspired by Effective Altruism which is all about value for money, but organizations like GiveWell that recommend nonprofits to donors tend to focus on simple interventions like malaria nets or deworming tablets, rather than multi-faceted integrated approaches like ours. So: if we want to be a game-changer and convince others: how do we prove we are effective?

Measuring our impact is also important for our own learning and to continuously improve.  Impact measurement should help make the case about why our programmes work, as well as whether they work. MaxPBR, where we are tracking and measuring results based on child health outcomes (reduction in stunting) is a huge step in the right direction. 

What we agreed in our meeting

To help us focus, we agreed to use three critical questions why, how and what, to guide the process. Our first meeting began to tackle the why-question: Why do we need impact measurement?

We left the meeting with more questions than answers, that we plan to tackle (with several of you thinking along) in the coming months:

  • What is it that we do, and what we don’t do?
  • Is our main focus child mortality or child health (giving children under five a healthy start in life)? Stunting reduction is more about the latter, which is the clear focus of our new strategy and flagship programme Max Nutri-WASH. The answer affects how we measure our impact.
  • We are an implementer and innovator, but we want to influence the sector. It sounds like we want to do everything: What’s our vision for 5-10 years from now: do we need funds for implementing more programmes or for influencing others to implement integrated WASH-nutrition programmes? (and which way will we have more impact)
  • Do we need to attain Give Well Status, if we strive to achieve more impact as an implementer and set out to pursuit the necessary funding?
  • How could a single KPI help us increase our impact with stronger, and clear communication on our results?

We already measure a lot, how can we use it better and are there gaps?

MaxPBR is collecting data on Max Nutri-WASH, and KIT is doing research on Stunting Free Village.

  • What does exist already and how can we improve and streamline our data use?
  • Do we measure what matters?
  • Do we need external analysis of our impact, and at what level – is the rigorousness of a randomized control trial (RCT) really worth the expense?

So, what do you think?

We want our pursuit of evidence to be transparent and for everyone within Max Foundation to reflect and comment on the thoughts, doubts and learnings that we encounter during the phases where we explore the why, how, and what. Stay tuned for our next blog posts, with some more thoughts on the next steps.

In the meantime, chime in via Facebook and share your thoughts with us.

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