Insights from Global Entrepreneurship Week Kansas City Hosts: Jeanette Thomas
With more than 150 events, it’s hard to choose which Global Entrepreneurship Week events to attend between November 13 – 17! That’s why we asked our event hosts to tell us more about their events and provide some helpful insights. Grab your calendar and get ready to learn:
Jeanette Thomas of HOPE International is hosting two events:
Working for a global microenterprise organization serving entrepreneurs in the developing world has forced me to re-examine the way I evaluate social impact.
For years, I celebrated Ameri-centric solutions. Of course, I never said it like that. And I never intended for all the answers to point back (exclusively) to me, my leadership, my networks, my community and my money.
But over time, I realized that my approach to poverty-alleviation had focused on inputs & outputs (with an eye toward bettering efficiency and efficacy) at the expense of including the very people I wanted to help.
In short, I was measuring and celebrating the wrong stuff. And, in the process, excluding the most vulnerable with the most potential.
I was a pastor back then, with over ten years of experience in global partnerships. It took courage and collaborative leadership to stop placing ourselves at the center. It required discipline to look beyond our strategic plans, our engaged volunteers and (our?) grateful recipients.
But ending superficial analysis created space for us to ask more foundational questions: how might people and systems inside this context participate in its restoration? How might privilege be refracted in ways that illuminate new ideas and empower a new workforce? In short, how does human flourishing—even in the most difficult places—begin to change everything?
Learning how to help
Last year, I left pastoral leadership to join the team at HOPE International. I have the privilege of facilitating partnerships with this very aim—human flourishing. In our field work at HOPE, we measure impact by looking at restoration across four domains: spiritual, material, social and personal. Are individuals flourishing in their relationship with God, self, others and the material world?
For us, the question isn’t simply does one have access to a church, to personal dignity, to social standing or financial services. But rather, are relationships in all four of these domains flourishing?
Our Learning, Monitoring, and Evaluation (LM&E) Team at HOPE bears primary responsibility in this work. They’re constantly investing their efforts to better understand our stakeholders (our clients, field partners, donors and staff) and to ensure that our four domains of impact are strong and effective.
No doubt, countless lessons lie ahead as we engage in dialogue and learning. But in a spirit of mutuality, I close with a few lessons we’ve been mulling over recently. I hope you find them helpful as you consider evaluating amongst your stakeholder community:
Remember the role of Learning, Monitoring, and Evaluation (LM&E). We undertake holistic evaluation to improve (not to prove) our work. In humility, we recognize that we play one role alongside dozens of organizations and companies, collaborating to see restoration.
Our goal in evaluating impact is to learn how we can best serve our stakeholders–not to prove a direct correlation or causation between our strategies and certain outcomes. (Like so many social endeavors, global poverty is a complicated problem best served by collective impact.)
Listen, don’t assume. Listening affirms the dignity of those we serve, giving them a voice in the solution and better illuminating what & how we should measure. Our starting point should be humble curiosity and thoughtful questions.
Collaborate before finalizing and utilizing LM&E tools. Resist the temptation to independently create and test metrics. Glean wisdom from the trials and success of others, both inside and outside our organization.
Complete feedback loops. Don’t stop at reviewing and understanding findings. Press further—to respond. Our goal is to serve our stakeholders through the feedback we receive. How might we tweak a system or restructure a program toward this end?
Understand LM&E as part of our work–not simply an evaluation of our work. How we listen matters. We celebrate that we have seen transformation in the lives of both our clients and enumerators because of their involvement with our LM&E process.