Organizational Capacity Building

Candace LaRue and Associates

Lyle Wray measurement framework and the evolution of our field #CICSUMMIT

on November 15, 2012

A conceptual framework is the basis for many theories. We have implicit ways of organizing data. It is a group of concepts that provides a focus and a rationale – what is important and why is it important. We are drowning in data. On the train ride up here, everyone was looking at a screen. How to you integrate these massive amounts of data? How do you know this is important? We develop our frameworks through word models.

The Thomas Acquinas used a framework to make room for science 800 years ago. They have a variety of domains (economic, environment, etc). An example is sustainability – that has a very broad framework. Frameworks are nested from local to broad. We need to figure out indicators that next from a neighborhood to the world. Instead we have a Tower of Babel where the data doesn’t work well together. It is important to be able to both nest and disaggregate data. We have incompatible layers. Frameworks have different time frames – some things change quickly, some change slowly. For example, dashboards are short term but reports are long term. Frameworks may be based on individual measures, portfolio measures, or composites. Portfolio measures may be collapsed into an index.

Domains – from simple to direct. Some measures are direct measures (like birthweight) and others are complex and based on theoretical judgment. For example, if someone gets shot, it increases the GDP – what is wrong with this picture? We need a broader measure of social well-being, like the Fordham measure. An example of nesting is being able to understand local sustainability in a global context.

Composites or singular indicators? It depends on what we want to measure. Higher level indicators are helpful to communicate. If you don’t have them, you are “down in the weeds” and can’t see the overall effect. But, then the issue is the selection and weight of elements in the index. What is the decision process for developing the measures? An example is the Legatim Prosperity Index created for France by Stiglitz and Sen. The US 12th in this index. You can “drill down” to individual elements and countries and then aggregate up to the world and the composite index.

The triple bottom line is another framework – economic performance, social performance, environment performance.

Another example is the Paul Epstein cause and effect chart on childhood obesity. They identified six major causes of obesity – prenatal practices, genetics, early feeding, environment, lifestyle, and policy. The cause and effect chart provides a way to identify an intervention approach on what might be more “moveable.” This is in contrast to the “intervention du jour.” Unless you have an understanding causes and effects, it is easier to “peddle” interventions that do not have evidence to support them.

Another example – the Balanced scorecard framework (see Kaplan and Norton 1996). This gives multiple perspectives that need to be looked at at the same time – financial, customer, internal business processes, learning and growth. Vision and strategy is at the center. One perspective is not enough. Learning and growth implies that organizations need to get better all the time, not have the same problems all the time. Internal business processes ask how much it costs the business to “get it out the door.” The customer perspective highlights customer relationships. This framework goes beyond the financial perspective, but organizations that have adopted it do better than those that focus on financials only.

What are the benefits of frameworks? Analysis – comparison across communities, analysis and synthesis cycle, scope and scale, point to prospective indicators. Where are we, what are we doing, and what do we know? Communication – common language, points attention to important elements (example of checklists for important repetitive tasks like preparing for surgery), improves communication, organize to understand 5+- 2 (this is how much we can understand at one time). This allows us to communicate with a common language while avoiding starting from scratch. Action – point to intervention targets, avoids intervention du jour, select promising practices based on comparison data (omega squared – powerful variables, not the ones that you have to tease and twist to identify impacts). How do we actually get things to change? We need to use our frameworks to understand what we can do to create change. We need Big Bang variables in order to move achievements of struggling students faster. Frameworks can help point us to the game changing variables.

Frameworks take a while to develop, and there are many evolving frameworks. We need to integrate nested frameworks into the massive among data we have coming down the tubes. Who convenes and how to we make progress on frameworks over time?

Note: these are notes from his talk, not my own opinion.

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