How Do We Know If We're Any Good? - Metrics

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How to know if we're actually having an impact on the communities with which we work?

Participants: Josh Neil Eric Misty Rebecca Kate John


Profit is the only universally accepted metric of success, and that's just not relevant to measuring the efficacy of programs designed to make communities more vibrant, happy and healthy.

For a mesh network, we know if a node is healthy by the data flowing through it. How do we know if a neighborhood is happy and healthy? How do we know how value is flowing through our communities?

What we're looking for are proxies for vibrancy/health/happiness.

1. Chicago has a healthy neighborhoods measure, and it's often lambasted by activists because it's a city measure using existing standard data gathering approaches. And yet, some of those metrics are useful. Infant mortality, literacy rate, murder rates - those all tell us useful information about the community.

2. Measuring efficacy inside the organization: the ideal is that reporting on activities is reporting on your mission.

3. Economics system: There is a balance between efficiency and resilience. Systems that are highly efficient are highly fragile. Systems that are highly resilient have muddy, inefficient processes. Sustainability is the balance between the two: a system that's efficient but capable of handling curveballs.

4. Identifying yourself within the context of a larger social movement, and your metrics are your contribution to the movement's impact.

5. Decentralized vs. centralized control.

6. Measuring attitudes/faith/the ground truth of the people you serve: I feel confident that the future will be better than today. I feel that it's worthwhile to vote. I think my actions matter.

7. There is power in the data that is collected. What data is collected has an enormous, frequently unseen influence over the decisions made based on the data.

8. The Dudley Street Initiative is one of the few neighborhoods that owned the rebuilding process. http://www.dsni.org/

9. Watching information move from place to place would be interesting too. What would we see if we could visualize how ideas and information move?

10. Granularity of leadership: how many influencers are in this neighborhood - from PTA to Gang bosses.

11. Information theory cares about the quantity, not the quality of information flowing.

12. Can we match perceptions of justice to predict events, or event likelihoods? Example: anger over a jury verdict with riots. Our goal should be to predict positivity, not just problems. If we're just trying to predict the things we want to kill we're knocking out vulnerability and sacrifice.

13. Transition Network: a de-centralized coalition of communities that aim to build in resilience. https://www.transitionnetwork.org/

14. Identifying what makes communities vibrant and then appropriating them. Why are fundamentalists so engaged? What can we learn and recreate from them?

15. There is a lot of churn in city neighborhoods. It's hard to measure success when the original people have moved on.

16. Storycorps: A way to change the conversation by giving people a platform to tell their stories about their experiences. http://storycorps.org/

17. Strength-based questions are found in social sciences, and might be useful here to measure love and grace and happiness. It's all in the framing: How awful is it to be poor? How often do you get shot at? Those are questions focused on weakness. The alternative is to ask people about their sources of strength, like "Is there an adult at school you feel you can trust with your questions?" On a given day, do you see your friends?

18. Time can be a proxy for vibrancy. It's all about Maslow's hierarchy of needs: do people even have time to think about love and grace and freedom in their life?