Thanks to Aerie and his idea that a small group of us who now constitute the “international” team should meet and talk to one another once a week about issues of importance to the Nuru International world, I got to engage in a riveting discussion today with four colleagues about exit criteria. It’s a tough topic!

First, let me just list off the colleagues who were involved in said discussion. There was Janine Brown, our current domestic healthcare program manager (she used to be on the Research Team), Stephanie Jayne, who is on the Research Team, Aerie Changala, our Director of International Operations, and Thomas Hong, our Training Director.

We talked on Skype! Oh, I should mention that too – multi-participant (like, more than two people) video-chatting is now possible on Skype. That’s pretty exciting for us, since we all either work from home or the house in Kenya, whichis, I suppose, home for many of our team members. Anyway, big digression, but a good one….

I write a lot about metrics here on this blog, and it is a very important part of the work we do on the Research Team. Perhaps the most important thing we do. As I’ve written before, we are tasked with developing, managing, honing, and putting to use the means by which we objectively assess the effectiveness of the interventions we are conducting as well as the general state of the current community (Kuria) and future communities where we are working.

I think there is a strong consensus amongst Nuru stakeholders that that measurement and evaluation is a worthwhile endeavor. It also seems to be a consensus in the current climate of international development and rural poverty work. People seem to agree that objective assessment of NGO work and interventions is a good thing.

The question we were asking ourselves on today’s call, though, was to what end is this measurement? I think in the short term and in many cases, measurement of effectiveness will serve to help us decide where to re-direct our efforts. If the measurement tools we put to use indicate that some aspects of the healthcare of the community are below a level that we wish them to be, or that they are declining from some established baseline, our M&E tools will help us decide that we need to invest more resources in our healthcare interventions or just improve their efficacy somehow.

But another big reason that we have always thought that we should have a good M&E system is that we thought it would help us objectively assess the moment when it is appropriate for our ex-pat team to leave the community. We thought that we could establish some “ideal” scores for all the metrics we use and have the reaching of those scores mean that we have achieved success in a program area. We thought that we would have a goal of reaching each of those scores in a five-year timeframe, and that would create a clear path for each program and a multi-faceted goal to aim for at the end of that path.

The problem with doing things that way with our OLD metric system while at the same time stating that our organization’s goal was to end extreme poverty was that we found that we were, piece-meal, defining extreme poverty with our metrics. Frankly, we weren’t comfortable doing that.

To be continued…