When one of the world’s most active and generous philanthropists stresses the importance of evaluation, people sit up and pay attention.
Earlier this week on the Gates Foundation website, Bill Gates focussed his 2013 annual letter on “Measuring Progress.” He wrote, “In the past year, I have been struck by how important measurement is to improving the human condition. You can achieve incredible progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal….”
This topic really encouraged us. Measurement happens to be a fundamental element of Operation Eyesight’s philosophy.
We too believe that providing health care in developing countries shouldn’t mean settling for substandard care. Since our beginning in 1963, our international development organization has had a long history of providing “the best for the poorest” in the countries where we work; and today, our eye care models meet or exceed World Health Organization (WHO) standards and benchmarks.
To use some of Gates’ words, “… setting clear goals, choosing an approach, measuring results, and then using those measurements to continually refine our approach…” has helped Operation Eyesight develop models and services appropriate for all the countries where we work. In India, our Hospital-Based Community Eye Health programs are a stellar example of this, as is our SAFE strategy implementation in Africa.
We also make sure our results don’t end with our own programs. Operation Eyesight nurtures strong partnerships with hospitals and NGOs that have a reputation for leadership. All our partners must agree to use international health and surgical protocols with an objective to achieving international standards in results. Such measurements are critical to developing eye care that is comprehensive, sustainable and accessible to all.
As Gates notes, “[O]ne of the greatest benefits of measurement [is] the ability it gives government leaders to make comparisons across countries and then learn from the best.” We work closely with governments and systems within our countries of intervention, so that our models can be emulated, supported and potentially sustained within government infrastructure.
It all boils down to working ourselves out of business; when we feel our work in a country or project is complete, we move on to another area of greatest need. Today, as we celebrate 50 years of operations, we are seeing the benefits of our commitment to evaluation in our programs.
Operation Eyesight is confident that our successful models of comprehensive, quality eye services will provide the answer to the age-old tragedy of avoidable blindness.
We’d like to thank Mr. Gates for focusing attention on the important topic of evaluation. We look forward to more of his insights in the future!