Making a difference? Why not check with a personal results chain!

What did you do today? What are you going to do tomorrow? Did it matter?

In all likelihood, if you’re reading this you’re involved in ‘overseas development assistance’ in some capacity. Are you a front line hair shirt and bovver boots (as Alan Gibson would’ve said) development practitioner? Are you a professional manager within an NGO, donor agency, foundation, or contractor? Are you a researcher in a think tank or university? You could be a technical advisor or consultant? Maybe you’re a programme manager at for a donor agency? Perhaps you’re a monitoring and evaluation expert? You might be involved in back office functions like administration, accounts, or logistics? Or you might work in ‘business development’ aiming to secure funds for implementation on behalf of an NGO or contractor?


Whatever your role now, I’m sure you had a number of different options. It’s fairly uncommon for development work to be ‘just a job’. Even for back office roles, people might chose development because they think the subject matter is at least interesting and, at the more ambitious end, doing some good.


Whatever the reason you went into this work, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of that as you’re sending your 20th email to try to get a flight rearranged or writing an article that no one will ever read (yes, I’m aware of the irony).


Results chains are useful in intervention design as they force you to be explicit about the link between what you’re doing now and the eventual impact you’re intending to have, together with all of the steps and assumptions between the two.


Applying this to your own work can be an interesting exercise following exactly the same logic and might just lead to achieving what you want to achieve more quickly.


Say you’re a fresh graduate, taking an entry level job at an NGO? Maybe you don’t think it’s the best NGO and maybe it’s not exactly what you wanted to do, but until you get some experience, you won’t be able to do anything at all. So you resolve with yourself to work there for a while until you can get closer to what you want to do. How long though? How long before you know if this strategy is working? Maybe you’re learning along the way tells you that your original objective may not have been right in the first place.


So you’re working in business development. I very much doubt you think of it in the same way as you’d consider being in car sales. But sometimes that’s what it becomes. When you’re writing your next proposal, consider whether if you were to get donor support, would it actually lead to better development outcomes than if someone else won it?


If you’re a programme manager from a donor agency, undoubtedly you’re trying to ensure the maximum development impact for your money. But if you were to set out the logical steps between your action, the next time you push an implementer for another report which you know has very little to do with intervention, and that ultimate objective of improving development impact, it might be a useful lens to help you recognise whether it’s working.


None of this is intended as a critique of the many and different roles that people play in the development machine in pursuit of improving the lives of the world’s most disadvantaged people. It’s just that, sometimes, it’s easy to lose track of the end goal and a personal results chain could be a fun exercise to provide some feedback loops to ensure you’re contributing to that goal.

© 2020 Agora Global Ltd.