Measuring for Learning instead of Measuring for Accountability

“We would like to dethrone measurement from its godly position, to reveal the false god it has been. We want instead to offer measurement a new job – that of helpful servant.” (M. Wheatley and M. Kellner-Rogers)

Measuring for accountability examines “what”, the products, the “things” and assumes that knowledge is a package that can be counted. Measuring for learning makes sense of the “how”, the process rather than the product, and the relations between things. Measuring is not a bad thing in and of itself, the problem emerges when measurement is used for the wrong things. Measuring is good at accounting for what we have done against what we planned and thus should be used for gauging input and outputs. However, one cannot attribute impact to input because of the complexity and therefore measuring impact is almost impossible. Measuring for accountability does not appreciate what is of greatest value and in a knowledge management environment this is likely to be a catalytic conversation or a new idea for innovation.

Within the scientific domain, “measurement reduces and standardises. In order to make sense of complex systems and processes, measurement first uses models and frameworks to reduce them to manageable segments” (Taylor, J. and Soal, S. (2003) Measurement in development practice. CRDA: South Africa, p.4). This is contrary to I-P-K’s approach which encourages complexity by inviting it into one room.

Measurement for learning can be used to improve development practice by creating a picture of what we want to achieve and once the activity is complete by taking time to reflect on why it did not go as planned or why it did not turn out as intended. This reflection and learning should be incorporated into future planning to improve practice. If this does not happen, there is no behaviour change and the project continues as it has been. This cannot for work for any development initiative. Measuring for learning can help ensure that the changes you make to your practice will make you a more effective organisation.

(Text by Margaret Jack, I-P-K)

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