Bill Gates issued his annual letter for 2013 today, in which he makes the case for measurement as a critical tool to fighting poverty, disease and inequality.
The call for better measurement and evaluation within the aid and development community is popular, but hardly new. And, as we noted earlier in the week when Gates spilled the beans on what he was going to say this year, it’s one thing to measure something and quite another to be certain you’re looking at the right variables, getting meaningful numbers and coming up with an answer that actually provides you with a useful new course of action.
That’s why I wanted to tell Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill& Melinda Gates Foundation, the story of the drunk under the street light.
You know, this guy sees a drunk guy crawling around under a light looking for his car keys. He asks the drunk where exactly he thinks he dropped the keys. “Over there in that dark alley,” replies the inebriate. So the guy asks, why look here? Drunk guy: “The light is better.”
“…” said Raikes, blankly looking like he thought agreeing to this interview maybe wasn’t such a good idea.
My point was that measurement and evaluation are fine, but as Albert Einstein said: “Some things that are worth doing can’t be measured; And some things that can be measured aren’t worth doing.”
The eradication of polio is a top priority right now for the Gates Foundation, as Gates notes in his 2013 letter and has said many times over the years — saying so again in a speech this week in London. He thinks it can be done by 2018, a fairly bold prediction because it’s been made by others so many times over and has, so far, never happened. Said Gates:
“The number of global polio cases has been under 1,000 cases for the last two years, but getting rid of the very last few cases is the hardest part.”
Yeah, so how can measurement help? Continue reading