Measurement, in case you didn’t know it, is the new black for the aid and development community.
It’s true that innovation, as a buzzword anyway, hasn’t gone out of fashion yet and social entrepreneurship is still hot – despite the fact that few seem able to define it. But measurement is definitely this year’s favored wrap for the hip humanitarian.
Bill Gates’ annual letter this year was all about the need for better metrics and data in the fight against poverty and inequity. Bono, dutifully following suit at a recent TED talk, said he is actually sexually excited by data now and considers himself less just an anti-poverty activist and more of a factivist.
Measurement is it, fo shizzle! Nobody who wants to be anybody in fighting poverty and injustice talks about doing anything anymore if it can’t be measured.
Last week, at the Skoll World Forum in London, came more evidence of this trend. The Skoll Foundation and their gathering of social entrepreneurs helped launch yet another humanitarian yardstick – the Social Progress Index.
And who could argue against such a thing? Who wouldn’t want to be able to quantify the impact of an aid or development project?
The only problem is that it’s not that easy to actually measure this stuff – equality, opportunity, security, happiness and well-being.
“These are tough concepts to measure,” said Michael Green, a renowned economist in London who with Matthew Bishop, a journalist at the Economist magazine, is one of the leading proponents of philanthrocapitalism (which, like social enterprise, I also think is ill-defined … but that’s another story).
“We need a new way to measure social progress that is independent of economic indicators,” said Green, who with Bishop is proposing just such a new measurement tool with this new Social Progress Index. It’s still just an idea to test out, he said, but we’re clearly in need of a better yardstick for aid and development. Continue reading