IPA Founder Dean Karlan and Mary Kay Gugerty release new book

"Caught up in the salutary movement for measurable impact, nonprofits sometimes forget that measurement is a cost that can only be justified by its commensurate benefits. The Goldilocks Challenge brilliantly describes how and when to use measurement to improve an organization's outcomes."

- Paul Brest, Professor Emeritus (active), Stanford Law School; former President, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation 

For the last 16 years, IPA has been working to generate rigorous evidence on what works, and what does not, in alleviating poverty. In this time, we have seen the development sector paying more and more attention to the potential for data and evidence to transform programs, and support management and learning.

Yet it can be hard for organizations to know how much, and what type of, data to collect. And the push for impact data (and the competition for funding) can lead organizations to focus their data collection efforts on demonstrating impact, often at the expense of the basics: creating an evidence system that supports program learning and improvement.

In The Goldilocks Challenge, Mary Kay Gugerty, Professor of Nonprofit Management at the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, and Dean Karlan, IPA Founder and Professor of Economics and Finance at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, provide a framework for measuring the strategies and impact of social sector organizations. They outline how a good evidence strategy starts first with a sound theory of change that helps organizations decide what elements they should monitor and measure. With a theory of change providing a solid underpinning, the Goldilocks framework then puts forward four key principles, the CART principles: Credible data that are high quality and analyzed appropriately, Actionable data will actually influence future decisions; Responsible data create more benefits than costs; and Transportable data build knowledge that can be used in the future and by others.

Gugerty and Karlan combine their extensive experience working with nonprofits, for-profits, and government with their understanding of measuring effectiveness in this insightful guide to thinking about and implementing evidence-based change.

To support development organizations in applying these principles, IPA also recently launched a Right-Fit Evidence Unit, which makes learning-oriented M&E a reality by advising and empowering organizations to benefit from a diverse set of data. We help organizations (i) define a prioritized learning agenda that is the Right-Fit for their needs, (ii) design agile learning tools that generate actionable learning and adaptive programming, and (iii) set up learning routines and organizational structures that help organizations become learning organizations. Visit IPA’s Right-Fit Evidence website to learn more.

About the Authors

Mary Kay Gugerty is the Nancy Bell Evans Professor of Nonprofit Management at the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy & Governance at the University of Washington and the Faculty Director of the Nancy Bell Evans Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy. Her research focuses on evaluation and impact measurement in the social sector; advocacy, accountability and voluntary regulation programs among nonprofits and NGOs; and agricultural and rural development in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dean Karlan is the Frederic Esser Nemmers Distinguished Professor of Economics and Finance at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and Co-Director of the Buffett Institute's Global Poverty Research Lab. His research focuses on evaluation of efforts to reduce poverty around the world. He is the Founder of Innovations for Poverty Action and President and Co-Founder of ImpactMatters. He is also on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab.

Mary Kay Gugerty

Dean Karlan