ROMA, or another way to avoid vacations
I’ve been up in Washington today with counterparts from WA nonprofits, learning more about Results-Oriented Management and Accountability. It’s a topic that I started working on absorbing shortly after starting my job, since it influences program design and definitely impacts reporting requirements, which even more definitely impacts me.
For a bit of context, I work at a community action agency (CAA). CAAs carry on President Johnson’s war on poverty by offering a wide range of programs to reduce and eliminate that poverty. We get money. We produce outcomes. We report those outcomes using guidelines spelled out in ROMA literature. Over a thousand other organizations use ROMA tools to help develop and report outcomes as well. Together, these outcomes should reduce poverty across the country. All of the outcomes fit neatly into one (or more) ROMA goals:
Goal 1: Low-income people become more self-sufficient.
Goal 2: The conditions in which low-income people live are improved.
Goal 3: Low-income people own a stake in their community.
Goal 4: Partnerships among supporters and providers of service to low- income people are achieved.
Goal 5: Agencies increase their capacity to achieve results.
Goal 6: Low-income people, especially vulnerable populations, achieve their potential by strengthening family and other supportive systems.
[quoted from here]
There’s a lot to value in the process; I approach my programs differently when I am thinking about performance measures than I do when I am thinking, “Ah, it’s another day. Let’s get some homeless people into housing!” It helps me think about long-term impact, about communities, and about outcomes being something beyond simply providing a service.
On the other hand, it takes time. A lot of time. Data collection doesn’t happen by osmosis, and every time I find out that there’s some new information we need to be collecting, verifying, storing, and reporting, I feel the dream of an eventual vacation slipping farther and farther away. It will be two years since I started in a couple of weeks, and in that time, I’ve only taken more than a day of vacation off in a row when I have been sick or had surgery. However, I don’t think that’s the intended outcome of ROMA. It would be funny if it were, I must say.”Goal 7: Community Action Agency employees stop having time for vacations. Any vacations. Even sick leave. There’s work to be done.”