Introduction to the Nuru International Research Program

This is my first blog post! I am very excited to start communicating with the whole wide world about what I think about every day of the week: poverty measurement.

Since this is post number ONE, I’ll start with a little background! Our Senior Research Officer, Stephanie Jayne and I manage Nuru’s Measurement and Evaluation System. It’s a really exciting system, and different in its entirety, from anything you might have seen in the world of extreme poverty eradication.

It is a quantitative, objective, scientific, and holistic means of measuring poverty in a community. Our intention is to use our system to truly measure the impact we have on the communities where we work. We bring in third-party objective evaluators to use our system for this purpose.

We work in extremely impoverished, rural communities. Our work is inspirational and it is charged with passion and emotion. We go into communities that have been ravaged by all the injustices of the world. These are communities where children don’t get to eat on a daily basis, where hunger, violence, illness , injustice, lack of education, and poverty the likes of which are nowhere to be found in the developed world, are everyday experiences.

As part of our philosophy, we go into these communities and listen to them before we start doing anything. We get to know members of the communities and let them know we are on their team, and ask them to become part of our team.  Through this practice, we quickly become, as individuals, very personally and emotionally tied to the communities where we work.

Our metrics system is meant to keep this emotional connection in check. After all, all the caring and love in the world doesn’t mean a thing if the NUMBERS we’re producing don’t add up! If the number of children getting diarrhea frequently is not decreasing, and the number of families getting safe drinking water is not increasing, then Nuru is not succeeding!

We intend to use our metrics system to, again, keep ourselves in check. To that end, here is where Nuru’s system is right now:

-A draft system of measurement was developed in 2007 and 2008, and our pilot foundation team members in all five of our target areas (water and sanitation, community economic development, education, healthcare, and agriculture) showed up at our pilot project in Kuria, Kenya, armed with it

-Data was gathered by the foundation team members and the metrics system was refined based on their observations and experiences

-Based on this data collection and refinement, baselines for all five target areas were established

-Based on these baselines, score definitions for all metrics were established

-The Research team contracted with Talisman Solutions to develop an online database capturing all data gathered and metrics produced. This is a herculean task, and Talisman is working wonders as we speak to its end

-The Research team also contracted with an evaluation team to conduct its first evaluation in Kuria, Kenya using the metrics system! The team consists of Sarah Sathaye of Harvard Business School and Bain Consulting and Crystal Ashton of Choice Humanitarian. The team is working closely with Nuru to develop a data gathering plan and have a solid understanding of our metrics system so they can use it effectively and efficiently on the ground in Kenya

….so this is where we are! I spend my days reviewing and revising our metrics system in its current form as necessary, managing the exciting work of Talisman Solutions and trying to ensure they have ALL the information they need to do some complex coding online, communicating and collaborating with Nuru employees throughout the U.S. and in Kuria, Kenya, capturing the lessons we have learned so far on metrics to ensure we do the best work possible, learning new things about social metrics, and doing something I haven’t even mentioned yet in this post: managing a team of volunteers who conduct exciting research projects for Nuru.  Maybe I’ll get into what these people do for us in my next post! They fulfill a vital role at Nuru.

To use one of the phrases I used to hear frequently when I was a management consultant in a former professional life, everything I do at Nuru is to the end of ensuring that we don’t “drink our own bathwater”. Gross, right? I have a feeling that phrase was mistakenly invented by mixing up a couple of other phrases…
Until next time….

About Gabrielle Blocher

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