We can (nearly) measure anything

“We had some great results -but you can’t measure them!”

“Not everything that counts can be counted!”

“You can’t measure everything!”

These are some of the critical arguments we often hear in Monitoring and Evaluation.

The reason for this confusion is the common misconception that we in Monitoring and Evaluation always aim for precise, scientific measurements.

However, our work is about measuring to reduce uncertainty – and not necessary about precise numbers.

Let’s take an example: Can we measure happiness? Yes, we can. It is done all the time. Not precisely, but we can measure approximate levels of happiness and how they change over time. For example, we can ask people regularly how happy they feel on a scale from 1 to 10. Or we can define a set of criteria that we know from research make people happy – a warm, dry place to sleep, food on the table, a sense of self-control over their lives, and so on. Or we can use face recognition software to track over time how often people smile per day.

In fact, the so-called World Happiness Report regularly ranks countries according to their level of happiness. And the Himalaya kingdom of Bhutan sets policies based on a Gross National Happiness index.

In a nutshell: If we can observe a thing in any way at all, we can also measure it.

And we know: What is getting measured, gets done.  

We can (nearly) measure anything

by Thomas Winderl time to read: 1 min