Baseline studiesS&T recently completed the 'Reality Check' study for the Kaiser Family Foundation
and the Independent Newspaper group. Our completion of Project Readiness Assessments
for all projects being funded by the Independent Development Trust on behalf
of the Department of Welfare comprises an organisational baseline. Our partners
have been involved in key baseline studies in the past, in the areas of youth,
health, gender and so on.
Baseline studies are critical for good monitoring systems, and for reliable
evaluations. Baseline studies - whatever methods are used - provide (as their
name suggests) a benchmark against which subsequent performance can be measured.
As a result, baseline studies are normally quantitative.
Baseline surveys in South Africa have had a profound effect on developing
our understanding of the socio-economic terrain. In all sectors of society,
baseline surveys have allowed us to develop a detailed picture of what is
happening. Moreover, because the baseline survey has given us a snapshot of
what is happening in those sectors, the snapshot can then be compared with
other snapshots taken at a later date.
In other words, the value of baseline surveys becomes more apparent over
time as they allow us to measure change since the first survey. The value
of measuring this change can be seen in the health sector, where the first
Kaiser Family Foundation baseline survey on health inequalities was performed
in 1994. A second survey was performed in 1998, which allowed researchers
to compare the effectiveness and quality of the delivery of health care in
1998 with that in 1994. This comparison allowed health practitioners and policy
makers to establish what had improved and what had not in the intervening
four years. This information will also assist strategic planners in developing
achievable goals, based on the comparisons made between the baseline study
and subsequent studies.
Performance planning can also not be done without a baseline study. The
baseline study provides the information that allows one to set the benchmarks
against which performance can be measured. Without the baseline study the
benchmarks are likely to be meaningless and not grounded in reality.
Read more about baselines, evaluation and related issues in our next newsletter.