It is no secret I believe evaluations need to be a central part of the work we do in the social sector, and that not all evaluative frameworks are created equal. Certainly establishing a reliable system for measuring organizational impact eludes us, but even in the cases that we do have reliable outcomes metrics, I too often come across individuals and agencies who ignore sound data not because it is wrong, but rather, because it does not conform to their beliefs.
Those of us who work on poverty alleviation no doubt get into this field out of a commitment to reduce poverty. As we join organizations we believe in or develop poverty interventions of our own however, our loyalties shift in subtle ways. Where once the poor themselves were paramount in our ambitions, our ambitions instead become about the success of our solutions. If our solutions do not reduce poverty, we are perversely incentivized to argue with the evidence before us, rather than admit what we are doing is not working.
In this way, our sector as a whole is not trying to end poverty per se. Instead, we are trying to be the one’s to end poverty. If we blind ourselves by ambition and moral outrage, we render ourselves incapable of allowing outcomes metrics and social indicators to guide our poverty interventions. If we fail to use data, we will fail to end poverty.