Measure what you treasure



India-based evaluator Katherine Hay gave a recent talk exhorting international development agencies to think about what is most important and make that the measure of success. She challenged her audience to consider if India’s phenomenal economic growth was really more significant than Bangladesh’s slower growth but lower rates of maternal mortality and higher school enrolments of girls.

Governments and not-for-profits often get side-tracked by indicators that don’t reflect what they want to achieve.  When the indicators are aligned with a heartfelt mission, they can stimulate action.  Here are two local examples.

My friend Elizabeth Mackay, social entrepreneur and former policy wonk, is managing a project for the City of Greater Geraldton called One Million Trees.  A few years ago the City canvassed what residents wanted.  People from this hot, arid, wind-swept coastal town wanted more trees—a million in fact. So Elizabeth has this wonderful job to encourage people to celebrate the trees we have and to plant more.  Part of her job is to count the trees.

The second example is a project I am doing with Geraldton Streetwork Aboriginal Corporation. For 30 years young people have congregated near the city centre. Streeties will soon be having a greater presence on those evenings, offering programs for young people and gaining the support of local traders.  The Streeties Board was determined to evaluate the program, but what should be the measure? Reducing arrests and police warnings were rejected as being too negative. These are just kids, trying to have a good time. The fights and other potentially dangerous activity are not safe.  Keeping kids safe, and listening to them to make sure they felt safe has become the program focus and its leading indicator.

What do you treasure about your work? Are you measuring it?

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