Measuring Social Change: Assumptions, Myths And Realities
Batliwala, Srilatha. Measuring Social Change: Assumptions, Myths and Realities. Alliance Volume 11 Number 1 March 2006
According to author Srilatha Batliwala in her article Measuring Social Change: Assumptions, Myths and Realities, measurement – of everything from the size of a particle to the health of economies – has become such an integral part of our approach to the world that we no longer question its value. We assume that it is a good thing, something that allows us to show in statistical form the changes taking place in more or less complex phenomena. This assumption has naturally entered the world of social change. Not only is it assumed that the processes, outcomes and impacts of social change should be assessed; it is also assumed that they can be assessed – in other words, that the instruments of measurement at our disposal are adequate and effective. More problematically, it is assumed that measurement enhances our ability to make or accelerate positive change. In this article, author Srilatha Batliwala examines what she believes is wrong with our assumptions. There is no question that quantitative approaches have increased our ability to assess the effectiveness of social change processes. But the push towards greater and greater quantification – particularly from donors – and the amount of activists’ time and energy it consumes compels us to examine our assumptions in order to determine when measurement may be meaningless or even detrimental to our understanding of how change happens. Batliwala illustrates her argument with examples from the arena she knows best: rural and urban development projects, and particularly women’s empowerment projects, in India.