Social Change and Coffee Spoons


J. Alfred Prufrock measured out his life with coffee spoons.  T. S. Elliot provides us in one sentence a quantifiable and defined way to measure a dull and lonely existence. How then can we as social change agents, social activists and development workers better measure impacts of social change?We know that we are making a difference.  We can see and sense it so clearly.  But somehow we seem to find it so hard to provide clear evidence in order to demonstrate success.

I am currently attending a Global Symposium on MEN ENGAGE in Delhi, India.  This Global Conference brings together social activists, academics and practitioners to share learning, successes and failures around the theme Men and Boys for Gender Justice.  It is of course exciting to be at an event of likeminded people, to be inspired by people’s commitment to address the issue of Gender Justice.  But I can’t help feeling slightly frustrated.  I have looked through the program and have not been able to find a session called – How to Measure Social Change in 10 Easy Steps. 

Of course I haven’t, it’s not as simple as coffee spoons.  Challenging social norms across the globe, within a country, within a district, within a community is a complex and time taking venture.  However, for something so important surely we should collectively be able to identify clear and quantifiable ways to measure why it is that a community collectively decides to end child marriage.  Or why a husband begins to understand that joint decision making results in greater economic outcomes for him and his family and ultimately a happier relationship between himself and his wife.

Clearly we do need to work together as a community of practitioners to test and try out different ways of measuring social change but for now I guess I had better go and buy myself a set of measuring spoons.

About the Author: Esther M. Watts is the Assistant Country Director for CARE Ethiopia. She is currently attending the MenEngage Symposium in Delhi.

About the Program: CARE fights poverty around the world by empowering girls and women. Girls and women are disproportionately affected by poverty, so fighting poverty effectively requires focus on them. But boys and men are and will always remain central to CARE’s work. Poverty is directly connected to gender inequality. Men and boys in the communities where we work increasingly understand this and are vital partners in our programs to empower girls and women. The communities where men and boys are most actively engaged in our work, real and lasting change is more likely to take hold; change that benefits everyone.

Want to learn more about measuring change and engaging men and boys? There are dozens of tools and resources on Engaging Men and Boys, including a training manual, a tool bank, and work on our research expertise. Look at our Engaging Men and Boys Learning Initiative on Lessons Learned and Stories of Success.