Monday, May 21, 2018

Results Based Accountability

Several weeks ago I experienced a great training with a fantastic facilitator that turned my world around and provided me with the right tools needed to help organizations be successful and participate at the same time. The training was called Results Based Accountability or RBA. Over the years I heard colleagues refer to RBA in their presentations but I had no idea what it meant and nor did the community leaders sitting in the room, but we pretended to know. Results Based Accountability is a disciplined way of thinking and taking action used by communities to improve the community as a whole. RBA is also used by agencies to improve the performance of their programs.

So what's so important about Results Based Accountability? It's actually something that many of us do naturally without even thinking about it. RBA starts with ends or projected outcomes and works backward, step by step, towards means, according to Deitre Epps, Partner and Senior Consultant with Clear Impact. For communities, the ends are conditions of well-being for children, families or the community as a whole. Examples that Epps shared with us included: Residents with good jobs, children ready for school, healthy communities, or having a safe and clean neighborhood. For many community programs, the outcome or the end is how better off it is when the program works the way it should.

I fell in love instantly with the teachings of Results Based Accountability because:
  • It moves from talking to action very quickly.
  • It's an easy and common sense process that most people can understand.
  • It drives groups to participate and challenge assumptions that can be barriers to improving circumstances or conditions.
  • It builds strong collaboration and consensus among team or community members.
  • It uses data and transparency to ensure accountability for the overall community and the performance of programs.
In the beginning, I struggled with changing my way of thinking. I was familiar with the methods but it took me a bit to grab hold of the terminology that was foreign to me. The facilitator never gave up on me or any of the others in the room. Her support was a great value to each of us. Her discussion of the Results Based Accountability "Turn the Curve" template pulled us into the process with eyes wide open with excitement.

The Turn Curve Template is an overview of the step by step RBA turns the curve decision-making process. The following are 6 steps from the template to help turn the curve:
  • What is the end? 
    • Choose a result and an indicator or a performance measure
  • How are we doing?
  • What is the story behind the curve of the baseline?
    • Briefly explain the story behind the baseline: the factors (positive & negative, internal and external) that are most strongly influencing the curve of the baseline.
  • Who are partners who have a role to play in turning the curve?
    • Identify partners who may have a role to play in turning the curve of the baseline.
  • What works to turn the curve?
    • Determine what would work to turn the curve of the baseline. Include no cost or low-cost strategies.
  • What do we propose to do to turn the curve?
    • Determine what you and your partners propose to do to turn the curve of the baseline.
What Are BaselinesA baseline is a multi-year display of data with two parts: a historical part which shows where we’ve been, and a forecast part that shows where we are headed if we stay on our current course. Baselines allow us to define success as doing better than the baseline or “turning the curve.” Adding a comparison baseline from a different location or program can also be helpful in creating your baseline.

My first question was, What is an Indicator? An indicator is a specific, observable and measurable characteristic that can be used to show changes or progress a program is making toward achieving a specific outcome or end. There should be at least one indicator for each outcome. You probably know my second question, what is a Performance Measure? A good performance measure gives you and your staff the ability to make changes and see whether those changes improve the agency/division/program's performance, that is, its ability to improve customers/clients' quality of life.
Performance Accountability
For programs and organizations, the performance measures focus on whether customers are better off as a result of your services.  These performance measures also look at the quality and efficiency of these services.  RBA asks three simple questions to get at the most important performance measures:
  • How much did we do?
  • How well did we do it?
  • Is anyone any better off?

Organizations and programs can only be held accountable for the customers they serve.  RBA helps organizations identify the role they play in community-wide impact by identifying specific customers who benefit from the services the organization provides.

Tell me, have I peaked your interest yet? Trust me, this was the best training I have encountered in many, many years and I praise Deitre Epps of Clear Impact. Check her out and their web page today and attend the next Clear Impact training. You will love the results.
To download a free Results Based Accountability Guide e-book to learn how this framework can help you in your work, click the link.

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