What is Results-Based Accountability™?

Results-Based Accountability™ is a disciplined way of thinking and acting to improve entrenched and complex social problems. Communities use it to improve the lives of children, youth, families, adults. RBA is also used by organizations to improve the effectiveness of their programs. Developed by Mark Friedman and described in his book Trying Hard is Not Good Enough, RBA is being used in all 50 United States and in more than a dozen countries around the world to create measurable change in people’s lives, communities and organizations.

What’s different about Results-Based Accountability™?

RBA uses a data-driven, decision-making process to help communities and organizations get beyond talking about problems to taking action to solve problems. It is a simple, common sense framework that everyone can understand. RBA starts with ends and works backward, towards means. The “end” or difference you are trying to make looks slightly different if you are working on a broad community level or are focusing on your specific program or organization.

The population versus performance distinction is what separates RBA from all other frameworks. It is important to understand because it determines who is responsible for what. Population accountability organizes our work with co-equal partners to promote community well-being. In contrast, Performance Accountability organizes our work to have the greatest impact on our customers. What we do for our customers is our contribution to community impact.

Creating Community Impact with RBA

Community impact focuses on the conditions of well-being for children, families and communities that a group of leaders are working to improve. For example: “Residents with good jobs,” “Children ready for school,” or “A safe and clean neighborhood”. In RBA, these conditions of well-being are referred to as results or outcomes.

It is critical to identify powerful measures to determine the progress a community is making towards achieving community well-being. For communities, the measurements are known as community indicators and are usually collected by public agencies. A community wanting to have residents with good jobs may look at “turning the curve” on the unemployment rate.

Results-Based Accountability Visual Diagram

Performance Accountability

Organizations and programs can only be held accountable for the customers they serve.  RBA helps organizations identify the role they play in community-wide impact by identifying specific customers who benefit from the services the organization provides.
For programs and organizations, the performance measures focus on whether customers are better off as a result of your services.  These performance measures also look at the quality and efficiency of these services.  RBA asks three simple questions to get at the most important performance measures:

Turn the Curve Thinking Diagram
  • How much did we do?
  • How well did we do it?
  • Is anyone better off?

In answering these questions, a job training program might measure:

  • The number of trainees in its program
  • The ability of its trainers to explain concepts
  • The percentage of its trainees who obtain and keep a job.

Check out a complete list of example performance measures here.

Turn the Curve Thinking

Once you identify the most powerful measure(s) to improve, RBA provides a step-by-step process to get from ends to means. This process is called “Turn the Curve” thinking. Read about the process of Turning the Curve here.

Why use Results-Based Accountability™?

RBA improves the lives of children, families, and communities and the performance of programs because RBA:

  • Gets from talk to action quickly;
  • Is a simple, common sense process that everyone can understand;
  • Helps groups to surface and challenge assumptions that can be barriers to innovation;
  • Builds collaboration and consensus;
  • Uses data and transparency to ensure accountability for both the well-being of people and the performance of programs.

Free E-Book: The Results-Based Accountability Guide

RBA GuideDownload the Results-Based Accountability Guide to learn how the RBA framework can help you develop baselines and use them to make data-driven decisions.

Download E-Book

Free Video: Results-Based Accountability 101

Watch this Results-Based Accountability 101 presentation by Mark Friedman for a deep dive into the framework including population and performance accountability.

Watch Presentation

Clear Impact and Results-Based Accountability™

Clear Impact has exclusive and worldwide rights to use Results-Based Accountability™ (RBA), including all of proprietary and intellectual property rights represented by RBA.  It is Clear Impact’s role, acting on behalf of Mark Friedman and Fiscal Policy Studies Institute, to enforce the fidelity of the RBA framework by licensing the use of RBA to consultants and organizations who sell RBA services. RBA/OBA intellectual property is free for use (with attribution) by government and nonprofit or voluntary sector organizations.

Clear Impact is the exclusive organization capable of certifying practitioners and consultants in the RBA framework.

Comprehensive Results-Based Accountability Resources

rba implementation guide

RBA Implementation Guide

rba glossary

Glossary of Terms

rba tools and books

Tools & Books

results-based accountability software - clear impact scorecard



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