Results-Based Accountability, a framework for entrepreneurs striving to grow

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As a start-up or early stage for profit or non-profit entrepreneur, we’re constantly scrambling around here and there just to keep our enterprise afloat. When we’re drowned in work like this, we start to think about how we can get better organized. Setting up a framework and implementing a process that makes sense for the success and growth of our venture seem like the first step.

However difficult it is to use, a well-designed framework provides structure and a good start to focus our efforts in an efficient manner. We highly recommend Results Based Accountability (RBA), also known as Outcomes-Based Accountability, a framework primarily used by government agencies and nonprofits. Yet, it can be very efficient for any type of entrepreneurs and enterprises.

In an era of increasing demand for effective solutions to societal challenges, Results-Based Accountability (RBA) has emerged as a powerful framework for measuring and improving outcomes. RBA focuses on achieving measurable results and holding organizations accountable for the impact they create. By shifting the focus from outputs to outcomes, RBA helps stakeholders make informed decisions, allocate resources wisely, and drive positive change. In this blog post, we will explore the key principles and benefits of Results-Based Accountability.

Explaining the entire framework and process in a short blog would be difficult, the key principles of RBA are quite simple. To make things easier for you, we narrowed it down to 5 questions.

5 RBA Key Principles

How are we doing?

This question should ideally be answered in the context of data. It should consist of data that explains the past and has a forecast to explain how things will continue with no intervention. Think of answering this question as a graph that draws a trendline. If that forecast is towards something that is good, then we are fine. If we have a forecast we are not ok with, whether it is declining or not improving fast enough, then that is a starting point. 

Answering this question and reflecting on this data should guide us in everything we do. We can have multiple “How are we doing?”s based on different indicators or performance measures of our business. The change in the forecast from the actual result, after we implement our strategies, can be thought of as the return on investment.

What is driving that? 

Data is only important as the context in which it’s placed in. Think of a business that went from $200k in sales in 2019 to $60k in 2020. While that is obviously a decline, we need to think of everything that affects that data, positively or negatively and adjust a strategy accordingly. Think of the external and internal causes. This would also be a good time to ask yourself if you need more context, more research, to understand the data. 

Who do I need to help me turn the forecast?

Before we start brainstorming potential solutions, think of who we need to help us change our forecast. Think of team members, suppliers, partners, customers, or other businesses. When we are a small team, we may not have many employees or any at all, but our network of people that can help us tackle our challenges is not limited to that, or internally at all.  

What works to change how we’re doing? 

Think of strategies or actions that can help the business improve. Look at what other businesses are doing. What have you done in the past that was successful that could be applied? What are best practices? Think low-cost, no-cost. There are so many low-cost tools at our reach. Especially now with the surge of AI, options like this are more and more frequent. Think of unorthodox or unique solutions as well even if just as options.

If you can’t think of what would work, try and develop a plan to gather the information and to do the research you need to find what works. 

What am I going to do?

This is where everything comes together into an actual concrete plan. Rate each strategy or potential solution to implement to your actual plan. Think of leverage, reach, specificity, and if it fits the context of your business.

While in the end all that matters is how we are doing based on certain performance measures, it is important to try and pick strategies in which we are able to attribute and track its impact. Sometimes this is not applicable and sometimes, pragmatically, it does not matter, but it helps us to see what strategies are working or not and adjust accordingly. 

Think of these 5 questions as a cycle that is iterated upon with new results and new data that can be plugged in anywhere at any time. Using this framework can help us in choosing what works and strategies we will actually use and  eliminate the noise that does not lead us anywhere. Or at best, leads us to places that we can’t build upon. 

A strategy and action plan should not be complex nor does it have to be. As the questions might have implied, the simpler the solution, the better. While choosing what we need to do is the most important part, it should not be difficult.

Managing a successful business is hard enough and working through the early-stages of one is not easy, and it won’t be easy. But thinking of the actions we take day-to-day and using a framework to guide those actions can make it easier. As with most things, the hardest part is just starting. 

Bradley Chargualaf is Director of Programs at Caravanserai Project where he has designed and built its internal program implementation, monitoring and evaluation infrastructure and processes. Bradley is Results-Based Accountability Certified.

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