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Chapter 4

Integrating the power of data and storytelling

Posted: May 12, 2015 By: Comments: 0

The value of measurement – and convincing management

Access to education, quality nutrition, a roof overhead and the opportunity to lead a dignified, fulfilling life… All things we can agree every child has a right to, regardless of life circumstance. No organization knows this better than the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), an organization that strives to be the leading voice for – and with – children globally. In 2013, UNICEF launched an extraordinary goal of reaching one billion people and engaging 50 million to take action for children.
UNICEF Measurement Case Study
1. Be proactive & collaborative
2. Identify champions
3. Tell a story
4. Illuminate insights
5. Never stop improving

UNICEF partnered with Ketchum Global Research & Analytics (KGRA), and Gorkana, a leading media measurement company, to help develop a measurement and evaluation framework for UNICEF’s new Global Communication and Public Advocacy Strategy. As a public relations researcher, I jumped at the opportunity to help UNICEF establish a pioneering global measurement framework that would allow it to evaluate and continually improve its efforts for the rights and well-being of the most disadvantaged children. On a personal level, my experiences volunteering in Ethiopia and founding a children’s rights organization fueled my passion for this project.

It was from these two perspectives that I approached this task and now hope to shed light on the critical importance of measurement in the non-profit context. The “best practices” described below were informed by KGRA’s experience working with UNICEF, and proved influential in strengthening senior support for measurement.

Be proactive & collaborative

Recognizing that the communications and measurement strategy would require a dramatic shift in many country offices, UNICEF’s Division of Communications (DOC) prioritized proactive engagement of both internal and external stakeholders through every step of the development process.

As a result, stakeholders felt they had a voice in creating the strategy that would ultimately help drive how they work. UNICEF’s structure is decentralized over 190 countries, but the strategy clearly validated how consistent measurement at a local level would result in global impact. Nurturing these relationships was also instrumental in ensuring that UNICEF’s measurement strategy was clear, transparent and universally supported by stakeholders.

Identify champions

Throughout implementation, DOC identified internal measurement champions to serve as strategic ambassadors. These individuals served as a trusted resource for DOC, and as an example to country officers that measurement was indeed valuable and would make them more effective.

Tell a story

When it comes to measuring the impact of humanitarian and developmental assistance work, I find myself debating two trains of thought. The first is that data matters. We measure what we value; we track trends we hope to understand or influence. At the same time, particularly within the context of humanitarian tragedies or successes, no one ever wants to be considered “just a number.” For example, UNICEF has long championed data collection based on the idea that “every child counts,” but also adds perspective to individual children’s lives.

The power of measurement is that it allows non-profits not only to evaluate and track broad messages and issues, but also to identify nuanced details about the personal impact of efforts. Measurement allowed UNICEF to track global trends in media coverage of the Ebola crisis, for example, and also to understand how volunteers helped a young girl in Guinea return to school after the outbreak. These stories speak truth to data.

Illuminate insights

Data alone is not enough. However, leveraging that data to shed light on insights is what makes a measurement program truly meaningful. Insights are uncovered through careful and consistent data analysis; they are the “ah-ha” moment that can transform outputs and, ultimately, outcomes. They are what allowed UNICEF to understand not only what key messages resonated, but why a message was particularly powerful when accompanied by an image or delivered by a specific spokesperson or goodwill ambassador. For example, UNICEF found that effectively deploying spokesperson responses to sensitive issues could play a key role in countering negative coverage. Measurement makes insights possible.

Never stop improving

Recognizing that a commitment to measurement excellence is key, KGRA and UNICEF established an ad-hoc committee of diverse measurement experts from private sector companies, non-profit organizations and academia – many of them AMEC members, to regularly evaluate UNICEF’s measurement strategy and results. Just as UNICEF’s communications strategy tracked progress through benchmarking, so too did its measurement process.

Ultimately, a measurement framework is only as powerful as the strategic insights it empowers its users to uncover. By strengthening relationships with internal champions and aligning resources for greatest impact, proving that measurement can illustrate anecdotes and insights, and committing to constant improvement, UNICEF garnered senior level enthusiasm for building a world-class measurement program. Through measurement, non-profits can be especially influential in integrating the power of data and storytelling to compel people to take action for the betterment of society.

Photograph © UNICEF/PFPG2013P-0035/Harandane Dicko
Publication © United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), January 2014

Elizabeth StoltzElizabeth Stoltz
Senior Research Associate, Ketchum Global Research & Analytics (KGRA)

Since joining KGRA in 2012, Elizabeth has served multiple social marketing, health, public affairs and corporate clients. She is also an active member of Ketchum’s Washington DC office’s Diversity Council and Ketchum Social Responsibility team.

She also represents KGRA as a member of Re:Gender, an organization working to end gender inequity and discrimination by advancing research-informed action. A summa cum laude graduate of Ithaca College, New York, she earned a B.S. in integrated marketing communications. Elizabeth also founded Food for Thought and served as a founding member and researcher for She’s the First, two organizations committed to children’s rights.