“We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.”
–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Love146’s vision is the abolition of child sex slavery, nothing less. The degree to which we wholeheartedly “feel capable” of being honest workers towards this vision is the degree to which we often “judge ourselves” within the organization. However, those outside of our organization, donors and peers, serve us best to “judge us by what we have already done.” This involves calling Love146 to honest account for our projects and programs.
Accountability and transparency speak of a consistent theme I’ve wrestled with over the past few months, and especially since I have taken the position of Vice President of Programs with Love146. Accountability implies giving an honest account of what you are up to, and that, in turn, implies openness and transparency. From a professional and legal perspective, we at Love146 have to give account for what we are doing, how we are spending our donors' funds, and what our investment of time and money is actually producing, all of which - at best - speak of transparency. Additionally, accountability and transparency help us move forward and grow our programs both in breath and depth. We must be courageous enough for self-evaluation as well as open enough to allow others to see our flaws and errors as well as our strengths and successes.
In the USA, the standard is being raised for non-profits, all of whom are being more closely scrutinized. Charity Navigator has set this in motion, officially, with a new rating system for the non-profits in their portfolio. In fact, the language they use to describe their updated system of review is the “Accountability and Transparency” rating dimension. On September 20th we - Love146 - will find out how we “score.” This is a tremendous step forward in improving the culture of world changers and we’re excited and proud to be a part of it.
And yet, I feel a tremendous tension around the concept of an evaluating system. While I believe in being accountable for what we produce and being completely transparent in that process, I also struggle with having to evaluate a program / an effort / an activity through a results-oriented filter. Some programs, efforts, and activities do not seem to fit that grid very well, at least not to the extent that one can determine their validity as an effort towards eradicating child sex exploitation. For instance, how do we capture changed attitudes on paper, in the form of quantitative, statistical data? Anecdotal evidence only goes so far in terms of validation but it often expresses the heart of what we are doing. How long does a change in worldview take and how do we quantify this? Except through some sort of historical review, we do not know if a significant paradigm shift has happened in which impoverished families see other alternatives to sending their children to beg; sex buyers respect that children are never really giving consent; little children know what parts of their bodies belong only to them. Nevertheless…
He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper. –Edmund Burke
Because this is true, I believe wholeheartedly that we must be professional – as much as is possible – in all our Love146 programs, efforts, and activities. Professionalism has (at least) these three non-negotiables with which we must engage ...
1. critical feedback and assessment
2. direct and oft-times challenging questioning
3. the consistent and courageous use of the positive and the negative as opportunities for learning and growth
If we, as Love146, are brave and humble enough to embrace these non-negotiables, the tension surrounding evaluation can yield some very positive results. It will cause us to become more balanced in what we are doing and I believe we will find ourselves on a very promising journey in which accountability and transparency yield growth and flourishing.
Stephanie Goins, PhD
Love146 Vice President of Programs