Posts Tagged ‘outcomes v outputs’

How not to measure progress

In the run up to the UNFCCC latest Conference of Parties (on now, don’t hold your breath!), the Farming First coalition released this infographic (excerpt below) showing progress towards integrating climate change into agriculture policy around the world. It’s a good cause, but I think the authors haven’t been reading my and others’ warnings about differentiating outputs and outcomes. Either that or they were desperate to find stuff to put in amidst all the stalling in official negotiations at the CoPs. How else to explain their choice to feature not just the first but all four ‘Agriculture and Rural Development Days’* as important milestones?

farming-first-climate-infographic-excerpt

World Whatever Days can be useful in advocacy, but we have so many of them these days I really struggle to keep up and/or care. More critically, when you feature them in an infographic like this, I really have to question who are you aiming this at? To me this kind of communication reeks of an NGO’s need to impress donors, saying in effect “Look at all the good stuff we’ve spent your money on!” rather than engaging with other stakeholders on the real issues.

All of which is a real pity because you would be hard pressed to find two policy areas, especially in international negotiations, which are more screwed up right now than agriculture and climate change.

* Renamed as ‘Agriculture, Landscapes and Livelihoods’ in its latest incarnation.

Inputs and outputs, but no outcomes

Madeleine Bunting over at the Guardian’s Poverty Matters Blog writes about the problems of primary education in India. (And novel ways for monitoring educational standards …) My immediate reaction:

  • Here is another excellent example of how turning on the inputs pipe at best only leads to more intermediate outputs (more school buildings, higher enrolment rates).
  • If half the time these poor kids aren’t learning anything in school, wouldn’t they be better off helping their parents back on the farm? I’m not arguing in favour of child labour, but twiddling your thumbs in a classroom helps nobody.
  • Both of which = a classic planning failure.

In my decidedly less-than-global experience, most poor people recognise the tremendous value of education. In a more ‘market-based’ system, though, people wouldn’t send their kids off to a school where they don’t learn anything, or keep them there for the half-the-time there is no teacher.

Let’s hope some donors are paying attention to the results of these novel monitoring systems, and realise there is a lot more to education than just upping the enrolment rate. Bragging about how many new schools you’ve built counts for little until children start graduating with economically useful skill sets. New schools built, more textbooks provided, additional teachers trained, increased enrolment: these are all useful milestones, but, ultimately, only the final outcome counts.

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