New to Measurement and Learning for Social Change? Try the Five Questions

My mother left me my favorite kitchen tool: a small, serrated knife that peels, chops, and carves with ease. I reach for it first, before the dozen specialized knives in the block. 

I bet you also have a best-loved household tool. Maybe a hammer that has the perfect heft and fits your hand just right. Or a whisk that preps eggs for fluffy omelets every time.

In the measurement and learning field many of us have simple “go-to” tools that fit the bill for teams that are new to measurement or have limited capacity to take it on.

The one I reach for the most is a set of five questions for advocates and organizers to “after action” their meetings, actions, and other activities:

  1. What were our goals for this project?
  2. Did our activities at this meeting or action contribute to these goals? How?
  3. What was not successful, or did not go as planned?
  4. What could we do differently next time?
  5. What are the next steps? Who is responsible for them?

This tool works because it goes beyond “what happened” to focus on the change that staff aim to create. Used regularly, it provides team members with important information about progress toward their goals and builds team members’ tactical thinking skills. It supports teams in making regular small adjustments to activities and plans.

And because it requires no materials or prep – just a team of people and 30 or so minutes of their time – almost any group can do it.

If you have only limited bandwidth for regular measurement and learning, try this and see what you think. (Many thanks to Bonnie Shepard, my friend and stellar evaluator, who helped me create the original list.)

For more on how to use the Five Questions, please see New to Measurement for Social Change on the Resources page.

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