7. Gauging Performance and Impact /

7.3 Making useful comparisons

STANDARD:

We make comparisons to help assess the success of your work.

To meet the standard in full, you regularly compare results to help you make better judgements about the success of your work. Where possible, you compare results with the situation before you tried to change things (the ‘baseline’ situation), with the things you expected to achieve (your ‘targets’), and with other helpful standards or points of reference (‘benchmarks’).

This requires some form of evaluative judgement on your part, which in turn depends on some criteria that will enable you to gauge whether your work has been a success.

This is where comparisons become an essential part of analysis. There are three main types of comparison that can be helpful.

Baselines

To measure success, you could compare your results over time – that is, before, during and after your activity.

Baseline measurement is an important starting point. This is a measurement against an agreed indicator that describes what the situation was like before your social enterprise intervened. For example, from a group of 100 unemployed people, only 20% felt confident about finding work when they joined a community jobs program, rising to 68% after 3 months of skills training and job preparation.

It’s best to regularly compare performance with the baseline situation in order to develop an understanding of progress.

Targets

To gauge success, you could also compare current results with what you intended to achieve.

This depends on having targets. Targets offer a picture of positive change you are working towards, and these projections set out how much change or improvement you are attempting to achieve. For example, the community jobs program helped 88 people out of 100 to find a job – this represented 10% over-performance when compared to the target of 80 originally forecast.

You will need to check performance against targets regularly to stay on track and correct course where necessary.

Benchmarks

You could also find ways to benchmark your performance.

One way to do this is to use indicators or targets used by other organizations in your field – perhaps those considered ‘best in class’. For example, by ensuring that 67% of program participants helped into work were still holding down a job after 6 months, the organization greatly exceeded the typical employment retention rate of 50-55% among community jobs programs in the Province.

Another way to benchmark is to compare your results with other sources of evidence, usually taken from official statistics. For example, government data showed that the employment rate among people with disabilities was 41%, but that 79% of people within this target group secured employment as a result of a program. 

These methods can help to set your results in context, but make sure that the points of comparison you use are appropriate.

Course 7 in the Impact Practice series from the Social Enterprise Institute shows you how to design and make use of baselines, targets and benchmarking.