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Measuring social change

This paper forms part of a Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace (PSJP) series on ‘defining key concepts.’ The idea is to take terms commonly used in development and elucidate their meaning.

The paper reveals a crisis at the heart of measurement. There is a mismatch between what happens on the ground in civil society development and what donors want. Donors tend to be obsessed with measurable targets – often of questionable importance – that fit simple linear models of measurement that trace inputs to outputs in a way that claims to embody a scientific approach to validating programme design. The civil society practitioners cited in this paper, on the other hand, find themselves in complex situations where linear models are inappropriate. They seek a process-driven approach to measurement that aims to capture more nuanced ways of detecting outcomes.

In describing the complexity of measurement in their various contexts, civil society practitioners also describe the methods they use to approach the issue. Not only does this bust the stereotype that civil society organizations have little desire to measure what they do and how they achieve their results; it also highlights some well-founded methodologies that the field as a whole can build on.

Published by: Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace

Published: February 2019

Download: ‘Measuring social change

Other titles in the PSJP Defining key concepts series include: Dignity and development, Leadership and development 2.0 and Understanding sustainability.

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