26 February 2010 ~ 2 Comments

Metric Machines

I just added some thoughts on the Social Edge discussion about about the Fetishization of Metrics.  Add yours there as well!
The more we focus on metrics, the less human we become. We focus on metrics to allow us to not personally interact with a problem and yet still try to “understand” it. The problem with that is, we have to interact with the people or the place to really understand a problem.

We can’t all go and see or touch the places and things we are putting our money into, but it doesn’t mean we need to focus on numbers to know our impact. The internet might be the cause of a lot of de-humanizing problems in our society, but when it comes to monitoring and evaluating where to give money, it can be used to actually make us interact more like humans, if we use it right. We can share videos of the work that we do, interviews with staff and community members, share photos and journal entries and instantly “chat” with the people we would otherwise have had to rely on reported statistics to know about.

So why are we still looking at numbers? When the next generation of donors arrives, the ones who have been social-media-d from birth, they will hopefully not evaluate projects based on numbers which they know can be re-adjusted easily in order to satisfy those of us who have no interactions with that place. They will instead support work that talks to them, that shows them actual failures and successes, through human eyes, not stats. They will invest in people who are honest and speak about the work that they do openly, not through formalized stat-filled reports. And they will hopefully realize that the groups making changes in the world are investing time in people, not just investing times in a certain section of numbers on a census report.

So when they ask you “What’s the impact? How sure are you? Have you measured that? What are the numbers?” – show them, tell them, connect them, and entertain them with the details of the TRUTH, which can only be shown through human senses, not numbers. Because the answer from SOMEONE, even if it’s not you, should be “Because I saw it, and here is the story.”