About numbers. About values. About impact

Numbers!?

Wow, that’s a statement. You might like it or not. You might say yes, but… anyhow, I would be interested to hear from you what you think about it:

As Donna Meadows, a very famous system thinker, wrote in one of her books:” Our culture, obsessed with numbers, has given us the idea that what we can measure is more important than what we can’t measure. Think about it for a minute… if quantity forms the goals of our feedback loops, if quantity is the center of our attention and language and institutions, if we motivate ourselves, rate ourselves, and reward ourselves on our ability to produce quantity, then quantity will be the result. … if something is tacky, out of proportion, ecologically impoverishing, or humanly demeaning, don’t let it pass…. No one can define or measure justice, democracy, security, freedom, truth, or love. No one can define or measure any value. But if no one speaks up for them, if systems aren’t designed to produce then, if we don’t speak about then and point toward their presence or absence, they will cease to exist.”

It’s at the moment the time again of publishing numbers. Announcements about the business results of the past 12 months. Numbers give a good, concrete overview – about business and achievements, and in these days also about sustainable acting. Tangible, concrete, traceable, comparable, easy to communicate. That’s probably the reason why we all like the counting and numbers so much.

But the question is if numbers and the so-called impact measurement can and should just follow business practices.

These reports lead to the idea that the higher the numbers of so called “impact” the better it is. Better for whom and how? What kind of impact it is that we count? Short term or long term, direct or indirect, measurable based on which international standards? It sounds so great if we “impact thousands or hundreds of thousands of people with an activity, but is it enough to make really a change happen in the people’s life and in our world

Just imagine you better the water access significantly in an area of poverty. That’s great. And if well done also a progress no doubt.

Does it help to eradicate poverty? Probably not. Counting it as impact might be ok for those who helped to clean the water. But impact is so much more… what about site effects that might not even be taken into account. We can have fantastic numbers on women projects just frustrating more and more men. Who counts that?

Counting sustainable acting is now state of the art also in companies. The respective and even mandatory reporting is for sure not wrong. But the question is: is it good enough or does it just give to all of us the idea to be good enough? Isn’t it time to count beyond? What about counting how solutions are connected for the benefit of the poor, how solution makers are brought together, how networks for better are built…

That’s why we have set up the system changer network Kenya with eight Core NGO partners and do also network analysis and system index measurements while covering together many basic needs in parallel. We believe that we need more than high “isolated” numbers, more than traditional doing. We believe in building ecosystems of change on various levels.

Our “ecosystem of community ambassadors on ground” – eg transfer of skills, exchanges across locations – we can measure!

Why? Simply, because we want to achieve more and enable people at the poverty line to have a real choice in life.- together with our communities living at the poverty line and in network based solutions. That’s what needs to be counted – in various ways.

What do you think?

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