The Alignment Index:
An Innovative Tool
What is the Alignment Index?
ORS Impact and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Education Pathways team co-developed a cross-sector alignment index: a tool for measuring five dimensions of alignment among organizations working toward a common impact. The tool is administered as part of an online survey and its distinguishing characteristics are as follows:
- Developed from the perspective of a Foundation
- Created through a participatory process and statistically examined for validity and reliability
- Supports Measurement, Learning and Evaluation- promoting alignment at a systems level
What are the benefits?
The Alignment Index is intended to be a valuable learning tool that has many potential benefits, including the following:
- Calling attention to specific areas where collaborative efforts have particular traction in strengthening alignment
- Shedding light on varied perspectives of involved actors
- Tracking, in a consistent manner, the pace of progress or lack thereof
- Providing lessons from examples of progress that can be practically applied elsewhere
- Providing critical data about a catalytic outcome, which informs an organization about the strength of its theory of change
- Adding to the field of civic engagement and collaboration work by providing a statistical tool that can be applied in a variety of settings
- Informing a foundation’s current and future investments
How can it be used?
This Alignment Index informs an organization as they consider the degree to which alignment exists in a collaborative effort. This includes areas within the effort where alignment is particularly strong, and areas in which alignment is more warranted. Data collected from the survey helps guide the direction of strategies and actions as they relate to common impact goals. This survey is intended to be distributed annually to provide data in real-time.
How was it developed?
The Alignment Index was created through a participatory process involving three stages: index development, pilot implementation, and full implementation. The development stage (September 2012–August 2013), consisting of work-group meetings and reviews, allowed determination of face validity of the model. The pilot implementation stage (September–November 2013) consisted of administering the survey to four collaborative efforts in order to enhance the validity and reliability of the index.
The full implementation (March–May 2014) provided an opportunity to do extended analysis that further enhanced the statistical robustness of the Alignment Index. This third stage also created baseline data from which the foundation can gauge progress in subsequent administrations of the survey containing the Alignment Index.
The final version of this index includes five sub-indices: common language, common understanding of readiness terms, collaborative frameworks and practices, data sharing and changes in culture. Statistical testing insures that each of these sub-indices are valid and reliable, and can be looked upon independently or combined together to serve as an overall index.
An example of the Alignment Index Survey is available for download.