While grant making is core business, we don’t see money as the solution, merely a part of the process. And focusing on measurement that somehow equates to money is leading us down the wrong path.
When you think of money as the solution, you focus on getting it rather than on what you are going to do with it. At MPF we start with no money and work out what the needs are by deep investigation at the grass roots level. We combine this with knowledge of the wider funding landscape, the policy settings and drivers to identify where solutions to highly entrenched issues lie.
When we think we have some good leads we start putting funds and energy into building these relationships, listening, gaining insights into the intricacies of this work. We find this work leads to great ideas and opportunities that can be significantly enhanced with more funds. That’s when we start to look for it by inspiring people with funds through contact and connection to the people, the issues and the solutions. That way they are part of the process … and part of the solution.
We also are wary of monetising social change and giving dollar values to things like how much someone trusts someone else or how confident someone feels to step into a school playground having always felt excluded. The tyranny of metrics is well talked about in economics and business (have you seen Ross Gittins’ recent article talking about this in relation to the Banking Royal Commission?) We can well apply it to social services and community organisations, desperately scraping together new frameworks and data analyses to prove the value of their work, within this warped values system. But with this force in place we end up measuring things that can be counted, not that actually count, like the number of times someone comes to a social worker’s appointment – no matter if anything changes, just as long as they turn up.
One of our favourite answers to the question, how do you measure your impact, was from a teacher working with disengaged kids in an alternative education setting when she said, “err, by the length of the girl’s fringe I guess”. “What do you mean by that?” we naively asked. “Well, when they come to us, they’ve had horrendous experiences, at home, at school, everywhere, they trust noone, feel no self worth and try to be invisible, they cover themselves as much as possible, including their faces with their hair. When they start to push it aside to see better, we are starting to make progress, when they pin it back you are really hitting goals and when they cut it, well, you know you’ve made an impact!”