In our last two blogs, we spoke about why measurement is key for development professionals and what should we measure? and about some take-aways from the medical profession on the measurement of competencies and performance. In this blog, we discuss specific ways we can use those lessons and apply them to the development sector.
As we discussed, in the medical world, lessons learned in competency and performance measurement relate to:
The focus on competencies, performance, and the space in between
Competence being specific to situations and existing on a continuum
Assessment as a program of activity that uses multi-source qualitative and quantitative information
The importance of the reproducibility of assessments
Encouraging the use of a portfolio.
But how can the above be specifically applied to development? Development practitioners can certainly take a page from the medical profession, as the stakes for getting measurement right are no less than bettering the lives of those who live on less than a dollar a day.
The medical profession, by necessity, has hard requirements (inflexible and critical requirements) for measuring competencies and performance. In fact, such measurement is mission critical. While the development profession does not have “hard” requirements, we can learn from their rigorous approach. Here are a few principles and rules that we could borrow:
According to a training report no less than $55.4 billion in 2013 was spent on training, including payroll and external products and services, in the US alone. The US and other countries spend a significant amount of money on employee development with the implicit assumption that training is correlated to improved on- the- job performance. However, what exactly should we measure to ensure that this money is well spent? What is it that we need to measure to determine that employees are performing as expected and thus benefitting from these training expenditures?
Two responses that we often get to this “what should be measured” question are “performance” and “competencies”. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) of the United States defines performance measurement as the “ongoing monitoring and reporting of program accomplishments, particularly progress toward pre-established goals.” Performance measures, therefore, help define what success at the workplace means (“accomplishments”), and attempt to quantify performance by tracking the achievement of goals. Competencies are generally viewed as “a cluster of related knowledge, skills, and attitudes” (Parry 1996), and are thought to be measurable, correlated to performance, and can be improved through training. While closely connected, they are not the same thing. Competencies are acquired skills, while performance is use of those competencies at work. Measurement of both is critical.
A new report out from the Knight Commission on Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy makes the case for emphasis on media literacy in the digital age. Entitled Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action, the report by Renee Hobbs focuses on media literacy in the U.S., but some of its points struck me as potentially applicable in other parts of the world as well. Hobbs isolates several digital and media literacy skills that are necessary to take part in civic life in an information-saturated society (all of these are taken directly from her report):
I returned from my two weeks of traveling with a more optimist outlook about Communication for Development -C4D- and the way it is being considered and applied around the world. I went first to Lisbon, Portugal, where I was invited to be a guest speaker in a week-long workshop on communication for social change sponsored by the Objectivo 2015 - UN Millennium Campaign in Portugal and hosted by the Lisbon's School of Communication and Media Studies. The course was directed at Civil Society Organizations managers and program officers. It has been very encouraging to see not only the high level of interest of participants, but also to realize that C4D principles and concepts can be and are applied effectively in the context of more developed countries.