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Funder: Edna McConnell Clark Foundation
Project Time Period: 2015
About PropelNext: PropelNext is an Edna McConnel Clark Foundation initiative designed to help nonprofits transform their passions for helping disadvantaged youth into data-driven insights and practices that enable them to deliver even more powerful results.
The Work: MAI supported PropelNext in two ways. First, based on MAI’s expertise, information that was collected from over forty high-performing nonprofits, and a review of PropelNext grantee documents, MAI designed a guide to help grantees identify appropriate outcomes and indicators for their programmatic efforts. The guide walks the reader through the information graphically and is organized into three primary sections: Workforce Development; Academic Achievement; and Positive Behaviors, Attitudes, and Skills. Second, MAI conducted a national scan of best practices to develop a brief for grantees to help them identify key facets of effective workforce development programming that they could use to further develop their programmatic models.
What We Learned: Our work on the guide revealed that few organizations, even high performers, actually set targets, even when they are collecting data related to how they performed on particular indicators. This suggests that the field may be more focused on the measurement of results, rather than on setting targets for the management of program performance. Another thing we learned is that in the field, there is far less consensus on indicators than we had anticipated. Ideally, the information collected for this guide would have suggested indicators that are common among similar programs; however, while there is ample agreement on outcomes among similar programs, there remains substantial variation in the use of common indicators. Because of this, our ability to understand which indicators are most commonly used by programs was limited. Nonetheless, the guide we produced includes information that youth development programs can use to help develop their performance measurement strategies.