To successfully confront today's challenges, the microenterprise field must dedicate itself to achieving higher performance - through the discipline of pushing on the issues of scale, efficiency and cost recovery, and improved program outcomes. This will require connecting to national efforts that support and enhance performance; making investments in systems and processes necessary to collect, analyze and act on performance data; and educating donors about how they can support and provide incentives for improved performance.
The ultimate test of quality lies in whether a program achieves strong outcomes for its clients and consistently meets their expectations. Because programs depend on public or charitable funds, they must also meet the expectations of their donors. For those paying for services, including donors, clients and the general public, important determinants of quality are both the outcomes achieved (e.g., business started and retained, jobs created, and income generated for the business owner), as well as whether resources were used efficiently and effectively in achieving those outcomes.
While both clients and donors expect quality, in a competitive funding environment the standards by which quality is judged can change as promising, but yet unproven, new approaches emerge. In this environment, strategy and innovation are important components of quality. How does your strategy - the clients you target, the services offered, the outcomes produced - position your organization in comparison with other microenterprise, poverty alleviation, or enterprise development strategies in the community? Is your program initiating or adopting new approaches to more effectively reach and serve clients?
To help practitioners striving to improve performance, FIELD:
- Developed MicroTest, a tool that helps microenterprise programs gauge and improve both their institutional performance, and their clients' outcomes;
- Compiled a set of resources focused on measuring and assessing the quality of program performance and how to develop an overarching program strategy. (For additional information on the innovation process, see the Practitioner Resources: Product Development section.)