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The IKEA Effect and the Social Sector

The IKEA Effect and the Social SectorYou worked hard to find and hire the best staff. You completely revamped your programs to make them new and innovative. You built a solid reputation within the community. And you have really great hair. Either you truly are as wonderful as you think, or, as research suggests, you may be the latest victim of the “Ikea Effect.”

Over the course of four research studies, people were given something to make: IKEA boxes, folded origami, and Legos. At the same time, experts were asked to make the exact same items. Once the item was created, participants were asked how much they were willing to pay for their own creation, and then what they would pay for the “expert” creation. It was found that participants were willing to pay a higher price for their own creations rather than the expert creations, despite their obvious inferiority to outside observers. Through this research, Mochon, Ariely, and Norton (2012) demonstrated the Ikea Effect—the fact that people attach greater value to things they built themselves as opposed to the exact same product built by someone else.

In my opinion, the social sector is not immune from the Ikea Effect. Consider the following questions:

  • Do you have formalized systems to collect data?
  • Do you regularly analyze data?
  • Do you have a point-person to monitor and evaluate your programs?
  • Are you aware of your organization’s strengths and weaknesses?

If you answered no to any of these questions, you have no specific way to tell how good your organization truly is. When determinations of success are left up to personal assessment, your organization is susceptible to the Ikea Effect.

Millions of people have dedicated their lives to the mission of their nonprofit organization—they live it, sleep it, and breathe it. When one devotes such an outpouring of effort, love, time, and money, it is easy to fall victim to the Ikea Effect—“I have worked so hard on this program, surely it must be excellent!” Your labor has made you love (your program, organization, etc.), but the truth is that it may not be quite as great as you think.

The only way to guard against the Ikea Effect within your nonprofit organization is to use data to monitor and evaluate your actions. As the old adage states, “the numbers don’t lie.” Data acts as a mirror, reflecting the realities of what is happening. Passion and a labor of love should not be sacrificed. Rather, these principles should be applied in full force to things you know are actually working. And the only way to truly “know” is to use data.

The preceding is a cross-post by Ashley Pereira from the Evaulate for Change Blog. Ashley Pereira is passionate and dedicated to STEM education, and has seven years experience as a STEM educator in varying capacities. Ashley possesses a broad range of STEM education research, curriculum development, and professional development experiences. Ashley now teaches undergrad and graduate Science Education courses at Eastern Connecticut State University and is principal consultant at Greater Good Consultants and NextGen STEM. Ashley works with clients throughout the world, and delights in sharing her passion and expertise in STEM to enhance learning opportunities for students everywhere.

Topics: Nonprofit Programs Data Social Sector Data Social services