The Pain of Comparison

Jan 2013 Portrait BW

It’s tough being compared to others, having your results put side by side with other agencies’.  This is especially true if your outcomes fall short.

Programs are sufficiently different that it’s always easy to claim that comparisons are apples to oranges. Mitigating circumstances are never fully explained when numerical data are  used to describe programs’ activities and results. But program managers always want the backstory to play prominently in any analysis of data.

“You need to explain our special situation, our staffing issues, the problems with resources,” a program will say to me.

That sounds like what you want me to explain are your excuses.

It is one thing to provide context for data. It is quite another to protect programs from comparison or to let programs ‘off the hook’ for their performance because of their special circumstances.

Ultimately, funders and the public want to know what is working and what isn’t. Programs that can show results and aren’t afraid to have their results compared to others are the ones that earn more investment.

The pain of comparison might be acute but it’s worth it if the result is better programs and improved outcomes.


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