Measuring Progress: Lessons from the 2013 Social Good Summit

Measuring Progress: Lessons from the 2013 Social Good Summit

How do we measure progress?

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Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 2:30pm

CAMPAIGN: The New Global Citizen

CONTENT: Article

By Alicia Ness

This is the first in a series of articles by the editor of The New Global Citizen on insights gained at the Social Good Summit. Read part II and part III.

The Social Good Summit (SGS), which convened for the fourth time last week, is a gathering of world leaders, innovators, grassroots advocates, and engaged citizens in a  public forum that fosters an active global dialogue to coincide with UN Week in New York.  It attempts to simultaneously summon a victory march and a battle cry, raising awareness of the greatest challenges facing humanity, while also rallying people to endorse the most effective antidotes—especially those related to new media and technology—available to confront them.   The impact of each of these unique approaches, however, is often difficult to measure.

Presentations at this year’s Summit focused on a diverse range of challenges and opportunities: Malaria No More,End 7Warby ParkerUncharted PlayWil.i.amMalala YousufzaiAl GoreMelinda GatesDr. Kim, and countless others graced the stage to champion their solution or urge action by a global audience.

Many of these discussions were interesting in their own right, but each was based on a unique conception of success.

In the domain of social good, there is a great deal of inconsistency in how progress is measured. In some areas—like malaria eradication—progress is both measurable and contextual. We know definitively that interventions have halved the number of people who die annually from this pernicious disease. In terms of climate change, scientific evidence suggests that sea temperatures are rising, but the speed and reach of rising oceans is uncertain at best. Ending violence or discrimination against women is an even more difficult issue to measure. In such a patchwork context, in which progress against each challenge is measured by its own tailored yardstick, it can be useful to explore specific ways of measuring impact.

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