New Year, New Targets

2 January 2019 · Categories: Communities Care, Opinions and responses

Who likes KPIs and figures? Well, surprisingly, it turns out that I do…

One of the best things about working at Community Catalysts is its focus on people. And not the stereotypes of “vulnerable” “lonely” “disempowered” people, waiting to be saved by some sort of intervention. It’s the real people that I work with every day, all kinds of them, helping to establish and grow local community enterprises and community business to strengthen our neighbourhood.

But we do get funding for our projects. And with funding comes figures – metrics like KPIs, targets, outputs… you get the picture. My tendency is to focus on the negative side of targets – don’t they miss the qualitative nature of life? Don’t they reduce people to mere numbers?

And yes, in a way, they do hide the people behind the numbers. But…

I’ve just been totting up my local figures to give feedback to a funder. I’m delighted to say that I have met my targets early.  I can report that the project has helped to create or sustain 57 local jobs through 50 different local enterprises. Those enterprises support 116 local volunteers who all make a difference in our community. That all means 1160 more options for local people. It means 488 people in Herefordshire are doing things they weren’t or couldn’t do before – not to mention the impact on friends and family (which I did not count).

And I know the stories behind those numbers, about the inspiring local people I work with. It’s real people like Bonnie, who runs a local meal on wheels service that helps older adults stay independent; it’s people like Mike who decided not to retire but to set up a mobility aid shop, or it’s people like Emma, who set up a counselling service to help local people find happiness.

So yes a focus on figures and targets can be annoying, over simplify complex situations and often hide the people behind them. But when hitting targets results in more options for local people, changed lives and strengthened communities, I think I can get behind KPIs. Or, if not quite behind them, then certainly in a rearward direction of travel…

by Tess Brooks
Community Catalyst (Herefordshire)

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