Input values, output values, heuristics, and dashboards—I might as well be trying to understand how to fix a car. Evaluation. Results. Impact. It is no longer enough, as it should be, that charities can simply do good work or have good intentions. Everything must be documented in order to prove successes to donors. In business, documenting successes to investors is relatively straightforward. The business either gains profits or loses money and the correlation between investment and output values is more clearly visible. However, in development, measuring social impact often presents a unique challenge of its own.
For example, how do I document growth in confidence? How do I document the fact that before, 6 year old Vanessa from Panyebar, insisted that she was incapable of drawing a dog and now she is scribbling out the figures of an entire barnyard of animals? Perhaps I can show her drawings from before and after participation in our youth program. I question whether this would capture the essence of her progression. Previously, the kids (especially the girls) could only say “no puedo” (I can’t) when asked to draw, count, write, or read. The challenge is not teaching them how to draw; it is giving them the confidence so that they can realize their potential. For example, Vanessa knew how to draw flowers and houses; therefore I knew that she was capable of drawing a dog, she just didn’t believe it.
he residue of both a machismo (male-dominated) culture and a consistent lack of opportunities are evident in the communities where we work such as Panyebar. I took Vanessa through drawing a dog step-by-step. “What does a dog have? Does it have a face?” Vanessa drew a circle. “What does a dog have on its face?” Vanessa drew two eyes, a nose and a mouth. Pretty soon a dog was realized in the embodiment of Vanessa’s purple crayon scrawl. Where previously every kid had insisted that we draw everything for them, they now could produce their own drawings. “See Vanessa, you are so incredibly talented! Look at what you drew! I knew that you could draw a dog! What other animals can you draw?” In response, Vanessa gave me a shy smile and soon after, with the quick dance of a crayon she formed a small chicken. These are the moments that are hard to quantify. But these are the moments that I count my days by.