Evaluation Consulting
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Redefining “Success”

August 19, 2013

I appreciate projects that remind me of the very short distance between existence and non-existence that many small organizations face. Take the organization in Ukraine I’m reviewing as part of evaluation support a colleague and I are providing to small funder: staffed by seven volunteers, five of whom are under age thirty, four of whom are HIV+ and three of whom are active or former drug users. With a tiny pot of money, in less than a year they have set up support and legal services for young women who are drug users and may be HIV+. In short, they’ve engaged with a much-neglected community, and through the project have demonstrated leadership and growth as an organization. Their project report is frank and honest, expressing disappointment that they didn’t achieve the numbers targeted in their indicators.

Read between the lines though—particularly how the project team, when they realized that the women they were trying to support wanted something different than what the project was offering, pivoted and changed what they were doing.

The numbers in the report don’t tell the whole story. The real story is much more important than the fact that they aimed to provide counseling services to a hundred women but only engaged fifty. The real story is how this tiny, under-resourced, all volunteer organization reshaped its programming in response to what potential clients need and want.

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