by: Rep. Diana Urban (CT), Sr. Consultant, Clear Impact

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The world of management, budgeting and planning seems to generate popular new approaches every few years. Most of these approaches are over-sold and short-lived. This history leads to well- justified cynicism about new approaches. As Mark Friedman, who developed Results-Based Accountability (RBA), says in his workshop, “If you’re not at least a little cynical about this subject, there’s something wrong with you.”

RBA breaks with past approaches in a number of important ways. It makes a crucial distinction between consideration of quality of life result for a population and the performance of a program or agency. This distinction makes clear that state government, while an essential player, is not solely responsible for quality of life in Connecticut. The RBA framework brings a simple, disciplined language to a field often troubled by jargon that only the experts understand. It uses time-honored budget and performance baseline techniques to assess progress on quality of life indicators and program performance measures. It also supports a constructive dialogue about actions needed for improvement, including no-cost and low-cost alternatives. It’s not a panacea. Budgeting is about tough choices. Using RBA is likely to provide us with better choices. But that’s no guarantee that we will make better choices.

RBA puts the focus on the ends, not the means . First, it addresses quality of life conditions for all residents of Connecticut, including fundamental citizen and voter concerns for such things as safe communities, healthy children, and a clean environment. Second, it addresses the end conditions, or client outcomes, for the customers of state-funded programs and how the customers of these programs are better off if the programs work the way they should.

RBA enables policy-makers, funders, and program administrators to identify how well they are doing against an historical trend line and to judge progress in terms of whether they are “turning the curve” or beating the baseline. “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.” If the projected performance is not acceptable, the RBA methodology helps stakeholders identify what changes will be needed to move the trend line in the right direction.