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Signification and Performance Measurement: Making Sense of Mandated Performance Objectives

Vanessa M. Fenley
PAQ, Vol. 45 No. 3, 211-231 (2021)

Understanding performance measures’ place in effecting program change requires examining them in relation to other structural program elements and the interpretive meanings attached to them. Framed using structuration theory, this paper utilizes interviews with professionals in the homelessness field to analyze how administrators make sense of performance objectives associated with federally-funded permanent supportive housing (PSH). Findings illustrate that when the meaning of a performance objective is unclear and contradictory to funder requirements and program norms, administrators do not value nor use the performance data. Conversely, when the meaning of a performance objective is clear, reinforcing funder requirements and program norms, administrators use the performance data for various purposes. In the context of PSH, professionals conveyed using a single performance objective to benchmark against peer programs, to confirm they are meeting other program norms that are not reliably tracked, and to build a performance-based advocacy argument without collecting additional performance data.
Key Words: Performance measurement; Permanent supportive housing; Structuration theory; Signification

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