Measurement as reflection - journal article

Adam Dingham & Martha Shaw

This article reflects upon a process of developing an approach to

measuring faith-based contributions to social action, examining the

problems and challenges involved. A systematic review of research

arising in regional faith-based settings in England [Dinham (2007)

Priceless, Unmeasureable: Faith-based Community Development in England

in the 21st Century, FbRN, London] shows the considerable extent to

which faith groups are engaged in social action in communities. It also

identifies the diversity of language used to describe those activities,

and of research approaches to capturing them. We examine how this

poses challenges to demonstrating the value of faith-based activities to

funders and policy-makers and argue that more important are the

difficulties posed to discussing and comparing faith-based activities in

ways which might be helpful to faith groups’ own reflective practice.

We link this to how power accrues around what is measured

and therefore valued and discuss the possibility of broadening

measurement by rooting it in community development. We propose

balancing in measurement the demands of accountability and

demonstrability with the values of community development, to

produce a ‘bottom up’ reflective praxis which can support and

empower local faith communities to be heard on their own terms

whilst at the same time defining and refining those terms. In these

ways, the article is intended both for practitioners engaging in faithbased

social action and its evaluation, and for policy-makers and

funders wishing to engage with its value and contribution.