By Rich Avanzino, 2007
Rank Colleges, but Rank Them Right, a New York Times Op Ed piece by David Leonhardt, theorized that if one central website collected key information about colleges (e.g., graduation rates) and measured each school's performance ("learning outcomes") so that students could compare schools in a meaningful way, colleges would improve. The best students would be drawn to the best colleges; poorer performing schools would be forced to improve to compete for prized students. "Human beings do a better job of just about anything when their performance is evaluated and they are held accountable for it," Leonhardt argues.
I couldn't agree more. That's why I so strongly support the Asilomar Accords. I think the Accords give animal welfare the kind of tool that Leonhardt wants for higher education.
The Accords provide terminology (healthy, treatable, unhealthy & untreatable) and definitions so that data collection can be standardized and reporting across agencies can be consistent. Annual animal statistics tables (for individual agencies and communities) and formulas to compute annual live release rates round out the package.
The Accords are like company financial statements - and, in my opinion, they're as important to animal welfare organizations as financial statements are to business.
The beauty of financial statements is the standardization they provide so that insiders and outsiders can see what an individual company is doing. If everyone had their own rules about how to produce them, it would be impossible to get a snapshot of the financial health of the organization.
Financial statements don't disclose everything. They don't pick up malfeasance, embezzlement, fraud or illegal activities - Enron is a perfect example. I would still argue, however, that financial statements are a critical component for providing transparency in corporate America.
I believe the Asilomar Accords play the same role in animal welfare. The Annual Animal Statistics Tables don't reveal everything, but they do provide a key lifesaving measurement for community members and animal welfare workers to review.
If every agency collected data using the Accords terminology and definitions then published their tables and live release rates, reporters, contributors and animal lovers could make comparisons in a direct way.
This kind of transparency would be a tremendous boon to the animals. Statistics from the top performers would set the bar for the industry, and this would foster competition and drive lifesaving performance.
Maddie's Fund created Community Shelter Data Grants to encourage organizations to gather community statistics using the Asilomar Accords. And we've just increased their funding. Grants now range from $10,000 to $40,000. We look forward to hearing from you!