We are engaged in a rather heated discussion here at Nuru about Exit Criteria. Stephanie and I have one perspective about it, and a few of the other people here at the organization have a rather different perspective.

Whoa, it’s actually a really tough topic. As I write, I realize that I have had versions of this discussion countless times with countless Nuru staff members and stakeholders. The question is, quite simply, how should we define our goals? At first glance, and with a few words, the answer to the question is simple: our goal is the end of extreme poverty.

The problem comes when you try do define those last four words.

Sure, the MDG’s have done it, but they’ve done it in a way that’s a little difficult to apply to a small rural community of around 5,000 people, as we are dealing with in Kuria. They have defined the numeric portion of the goals as proportions of populations. Those proportions, in the goals, are applied to the world population generally, and sometimes regions, and on the most micro level, they are applied to countries. So, when the goal is to halve the proportion of people in Kenya living on less than $1 a day, it is really easy to see how that is very different from halving the proportion of people living in one of the poorest regions of that whole country: Kuria. Simple math. (Thank you, Stephanie for the chat on this, as always).

In year 1 of Nuru’s work, we tried to define our exit criteria. We had our big list of 189 metrics, and for each metric, the program manager for a given target area on staff decided what the goal should be. This was problematic for a couple of reasons, but the main one that always strikes me when I think about that first system was that the process that was followed in the establishment of each of these goals was not an integrated one. We basically went down a laundry list of metrics and decided on 189 different goals for 189 different metrics. Once we’d decided upon one metric goal, we said, “ok, that one’s done”, and we moved on to another metric and established a goal for that one.

It was kind of like asking 189 of your friends to show up with their favorite building material, taking all the materials and throwing them in a pile, and calling that a structure. We had these 189 metrics that each had goals attached to them, and by defining those goals, we had inadvertently and non-thematically established our perspective as to what the end of extreme poverty was.

So, in the discussions we are now having about how to establish these goals, we are trying to avoid similar pitfalls. We are trying to remind ourselves that the goals we establish related to our list of metrics, whatever that list ends up looking like, will imply, directly, our definition as to what the end of extreme poverty is.