What do these terms mean to you within the context of what we are trying to do here at Nuru on the Research Team? Not sure? Now, turn to your friend with whom you weekly share the exciting activity of reading our amazing blog posts here and ask her what she thinks those terms mean? You and she have disparate opinions as to the definitions, right? 

Well, Stephanie and I are at our second Research Team “metrics” conference in as many weeks, and we are learning about the differences of opinions throughout our fields of interest, and let me tell you, there are many.

The conference we are attending now is the Global Health Counsel’s Conference on Goals and Metrics.  First of all, it is a wonderful conference. It’s very well-organized and informative, with thousands of participants and hundreds of presenters. Most sessions I have attended follow a simple format: A panel of four or five really smart people is present, and each panelist presents fifteen-minutes-worth of material to an audience. The audience gets chances to ask questions at certain break points during the session and at the end of the session. There is a moderator on hand to crack the whip and keep the presenters on schedule, as well as encourage questions.

I anticipated before I came that I would feel a tad overwhelmed by the quantity and variety of people and organizations that are focused on improving global health. I am. On the one hand, it is encouraging that so many seem to care. On the other hand, it is sad that as few strides have been made as have. Undoubtedly, throwing a high quantity of thinkers nor a high quantity of dollars at the problem, alone, are not the answers.

The good news is that I am hearing this concern as a universal one during coffee chats and time amongst my newly-met colleagues. There is growing convergence on the idea that universal approaches to measurement will help our field succeed.

…I think. As far as I can tell. As a newcomer….

Ok, so I have some doubts. At this point, I have attended about five different “presentations of findings.” Basically, an academic or a representative of an NGO like me stands in front of an audience and tells us about the findings of a massive evaluation that was conducted related to healthcare. Only a few minutes are spent on describing data gathering tools and methods (during which millions of dollars of expenditures are implied), and then really cool findings are presented.

Infant mortality dropping. Maternal mortality dropping. ART use rising. Cervical cancer testing rising.

I can’t help but feel our strong Western competitive spirit rumbling beneath the transitions from one speaker to the next. Mine was bigger, mine was better, mine is stronger, faster, smarter, more expensive, more expansive.

Once again, I am daunted by the idea of a universal measure of effectiveness in development work. Is it really something people want, or do they keep wanting to develop and present their better and better “means of measuring”?

It is a difficult question within the construct of the global economic collapse and today’s flat world.

Epilogue: A warning: being an introvert at a huge conference may lead to extreme fatigue as well as withdrawal and major introspection, which sometimes leads to doubts. Only doubt can bring about a search for the truth, though!