How to capture the unmeasurable aspects of the human experience? To feel, to relate, to connect is fundamentally human. To feel, to relate, to connect is fundamentally linked to our health and wellbeing.
But how to ‘prove’ this? How to ‘evidence’ that when people come together in community, their health and wellbeing improves? Is it true that ‘if you can’t measure it, it does not exist’? Or are we ‘measuring’ in a way that doesn’t give us access to some community members’ truth(s)? Thinking of ‘evidence’ in a way that doesn’t acknowledge the role of creativity and neglects to give us access to the human experience? And what is ‘truth’ anyway?
These are some of the big questions that have been swirling in my head since 2013 when I first entered ‘the field’ for the project that would become Measuring Humanity. Walking the streets of disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Glasgow and using radio, theatre, singing and music to connect with diverse communities, I was trying to understand what it means to be ‘well’. How do different communities experience health? What stops some community members from accessing services? And what changes will ultimately lead to improvements in health and wellbeing for marginalised communities thereby reducing widening inequalities?
The more I connected through creative community engagement, the more it seemed I got closer to accessing community members’ ‘truths’. The closer I got to understanding how lived experiences relate to health and wellbeing. The challenge was how to systematically capture these ‘softer’ outcomes against the more tangible ‘harder’ performance measures and targets saturating the health policy and practice landscape? How to develop and pilot a framework to evaluate and justify this type of work as this is what I was funded by NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde to do?
I was to come up with a mechanism to capture data obtained through creative community engagement, asset-based working and co-production in a ‘meaningful and measurable’ way in order to monitor and evaluate asset-based approaches and applications in a way that links to organisational targets, outcomes and policies. And so the asset-based indicator framework (ABIF) was conceptualised and applied for the first time with a so called ‘hard-to-reach’ community. Amazing things happened.
But the process threw up more questions and so Measuring Humanity was born supported by an ESRC Impact Accelerator Grant. A space for us push the boundaries of our critical thinking when it comes to evidence, targets and outcomes in health policy and practice. Are metrics helping or impeding health system improvements and equality? Why are we obsessed with performance measurement and what are the unintended consequences? An opportunity to collectively change the way health and inequalities in community settings is understood and ‘measured’. A place to ‘validate the feels’. A chance to inform local, national and international policies on equality, community empowerment, poverty and sustainability from the bottom-up. A way to use these upstream approaches to challenge systemic issues and structural causes of inequalities.
If any of this speaks to you, please do get involved on our Projects page, Community of Practice or by hitting Contact.
Welcome to the site!
Dr Marisa de Andrade
Principal Investigator – Measuring Humanity