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What you Measure is What Matters

In the world of international development, measuring and charting impact is paramount to sustainability and success. If you want funding and the resources necessary to scale your project, you need to prove its impact.

This makes sense, right?  We don’t want foundations, or nations pouring money into ideas and projects that aren’t going to change the status quo.  It is important that we measure impact. It is important that we have proof of success or failure, so we can adjust accordingly and improve.  It is important to measure.

More important than measuring this impact though, is deciding what to measure since that is what drives our behavior and impact as a company.  As Dan Ariely points out in this article –  the reason CEO’s are so driven by their company’s stock price is because that’s how we measure them. “If we want to change what they care about,” writes Dan, “we should change what we measure.” Here, I’ll link to his article again in case you didn’t read it the first time, because I think it’s a compelling argument.

As Thread’s Director of Community Development, I spend a lot of my time on the ground with our operations in Haiti, measuring our impact on people, planet, and profit at each step of our supply chain. So, under the philosophy of  “you are what you measure,” what are we as a business?

After running nearly 50 metrics through a materiality matrix, we determined what we wanted to focus on in 2013, which includes:

  • Increase job creation in Haiti (both direct and indirect employment)

  • Maximize support of Haitian businesses and entrepreneurs

  • Increase income opportunities in Haiti

  • Minimize work-place accidents

  • Maximize employee Health and Safety

  • Increase skills and knowledge transfer to staff and partners

  • Decrease green house gas emissions produced

  • Maximize pounds of recyclables removed from waste stream, streets and canals

  • Increase Revenue growth

This is what we care about. These metrics inform what we think about, strategize about, and discuss in meetings. They also become what drives our partner and employee performance.  Our metrics and impact are more than proof of success – they are how we make our mission of turning trash into dignified jobs and useful stuff people love a reality across our supply chain.

I joke that I never thought becoming a garbage woman in Haiti would require me to work with so many excel spreadsheets. However, this level of commitment to making sure we are quantifying and tracking the effects of our business that matter most is a source of pride for us. And we think it will make the difference in the long run.

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