The morning after I arrived in Nairobi I had a fascinating breakfast meeting with Marc Maxson of Global Giving. Marc is a PhD neuroscientist who helps coordinate the GlobalGiving Storytelling project in East Africa, a monitoring and evaluation experiment (see www.globalgiving.org/story-tools/ for details).
The meeting with Marc was timely. BOMA has a program that is seeing great success in the field and we have lots of ways of measuring that success. By collecting data on nutrition and household assets, among other things, we can measure change over time, telling us whether our program is improving the lives of the people of northern Kenya. It works on many levels, but I’d also like to know if there is a way to measure what is important to the people in our program, and sometimes those things are hard to measure. How do you apply a measurement to a woman who has now taken charge of her life? How do you measure self-confidence and the feeling of hope that she has for herself and her children? What if we want to replicate our program in new areas? How do we identify the successful characteristics of local people who can implement our program? It’s the soft stuff, as my friend Tom Peters says, that makes the difference.
Marc told me, “we want to measure what your community thinks, not what your organization thinks, or what your donors want to measure.” The result has been the storytelling project – a collection of stories from the community that are put through a filter of algorithms based on game theory. It is really cool stuff.
I wish I did not have to finish our meeting so soon. But Big William was waiting in the lobby. It was time to don my safari hat for the rest of the weekend in order to inspect lodges and camps around the Rift Valley soda lakes – Lake Elementaita and Lake Nakuru as well as the only freshwater lake in the region –Lake Naivasha. We have an ambitious schedule. But Big William and I have lot to catch up on and the drive will be filled with shared stories about the old safari life that we miss, and the many changes that we have to adapt to. —Kathleen Colson, Founder and CEO, The BOMA Project