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Are Your ICT4D Success Metrics Realistic or Fantastic?

By Wayan Vota on January 18, 2018

success metrics ictforag

At a past employer, my team was talking with our farmer constituents about their adoption of our new rice-growing ICTforAg technology. The team was shocked and depressed to learn that the farmers were not applying our methodology exactly as prescribed.

Instead of getting a new per-field fertilizer recommendation each growing season, they were reusing a generic one from the previous season on all their fields. However, they were following the overall methodology change that included applying three rounds of fertilizer, instead of one, and much greater amounts than before.

Where my team was dejected, I was elated. I wanted to buy champagne on our way to the airport so we could toast our success. Why the discrepancy in responses?

Realistic vs Fantastic Success Metrics

As academic researchers, my team only wanted to count success of a farmer followed every aspect of their methodology, which included several interactions with extension agents and field-level fertilizer recommendations. Any farmer who did not, was deemed a failure in their experiment.

This success metric may have been a bit fantastic to expect from rural farmers just trying to make a living.

As an implementer, I think of success on a spectrum from non-adoption to full adoption. In this mindset, any farmer who adoption any aspect of the expected behavior change was a success in their own way. That almost all of farmers had already adopted the core aspects of the intervention in just one growing season was a stunning success.

I was realistic in my success metrics, as the hardest aspect of the intervention – basic adoption – was done. We could always work on refining their efforts in the following seasons.

Adoption is Hard. Celebrate Every Milestone!

Recently, I was reminded of this difference in success metrics when talking about voluntary medical male circumcision with colleagues who would be amazed to get even 10% adoption rates among their constituents. For them, every single circumcision is a success.

Maybe we should take their mindset more often, and celebrate every single level of adaption of our intervention ideas. That could help us be more humble with our metrics and happier with our outcomes.

A simple way to start this process is to create a before-action report – before you start a project, envision all the ways it could succeed. This would be the opposite of the popular risk assessment, focusing on all the possible good outcomes instead of bad ones. Then, the team can assign a weight to each potential positive outcome, and formulate an objective  success spectrum.

At the minimum, we’d have less failures.

Filed Under: Agriculture
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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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